V.S Naipaul has passed--anyone actually care about his writing?

After Phillip Roth passed recently, I speculated here that no post-War writer was really going to be remembered, including Roth. There’s been a bifurcation in taste between academics and the general public (including smart people who are not English lit professors), and I’ve never had anyone press a Roth or Naipaul novel against my chest and insist it would change my life. The smart people I know just don’t care.

So yeah, I’ve seen Naipaul described as a post-War writer whose work “would last.” I’ve never read a word he’s written. Never felt like reading his dreary tales of postcolonial malaise.

Also, like Roth, he seems to have been more than a bit of an ass IRL.

So, any Naipaul fans here? Am I missing something amazing?

I liked his non-fiction books though it’s been a couple of decades since I have read them. Even when you disagree with his broad argument there is a precision and power in his writing and observations that makes you think and ultimately, that’s all you can ask from generalist non-fiction. Of his novels, I have only read Bend in the River and while is also powerful, though deeply pessimistic and unpleasant.

I really like his writing. (Well, the two books I’ve read -A House for Mr. Biswas and The Enigma of Arrtival). He is well regarded among certain human geographers (e.g., “post-colonialists”), and cultural landscape scholars; he was introduced to me in the 1990s by Barbara Bender, during a graduate seminar on landscape and memory. We focused on the double “displacement” of being a Caribbean citizen of South Asian origins, both places at the edge of the Anglosphere.

I’ve never even heard of him. Not sure if I should feel guilty about that or not.

I was told by a smart guy, not remotely an English Lit type, that I really had to read Portnoy’s Complaint, that it was amazing. I never read it. He didn’t say it would change my life. :slight_smile:

I read Beyond Belief several years ago. It was interesting and informative (although it’s been criticized of misrepresenting Islam, but it’s reporting on the beliefs and actions of people Naipaul met, so I take that with a grain of salt). But it wasn’t “life changing”, and I haven’t felt compelled to read his other works.

I have epubs of some of his books here somewhere. Have had them for years, meaning to give them a try. Never have got around to it, and don’t remember what brought them to my attention in the first place.

I was slightly joking, but I don’t know anyone who has read, say, Jonathan Franzen books. Except my late stepfather, who was literally a high school English teacher…

Naipaul produced some amazing novels, my faves are “A Bend in the River” and “A House for Mr. Biswas.” He was not a nice human being and this has had an effect on how his work has been regarded over the last 20 or so years.

I have; I roll through 50+ books a month. But I’m literally a literature prof 8 * )

Sure, I like his work. It reflects the time and context in which he was writing.


Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen that name before.

Or that other guy in the OP.

I really liked A Bend In the River (fiction), and a Million Mutinies Now (non-fiction). I’m sure I read a house for mr biwas, but it left no impression (did this have the guy who was always taking his car engine apart to fix what was probably an imaginary issue?).

A House for Mr. Biswas is quite good, thought I was fortunate to read it before I learned what a dick he was. I’m not sure I would have gotten around to it otherwise.

I’ve read some Paul Theroux, the American writer who was mentored by Naipaul and who famously (in the literary world, anyway) feuded with him for twenty years before reconciling. I only know Naipaul through him, though, and have not gone on to read his books.

I imagine the robot geographers would find his work illogical.

Theroux’s book about his relationship with Naipaul is really a fun and funny read about how much of an asshole a superior entity can be.

Portnoy’s Complaint is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. A litany of annoying neuroses followed by a totally predictable “surprise” ending. After struggling thru that I never attempted another Roth novel.

On the advice of a good college friend, very well-read, I decided to try Roth.

Portnoy’s Complaint seemed like a long tedious compilation of Jewish jokes.

Then I tried that novel about Lindbergh being elected President. I would have been better off re-reading Sinclair Lewis’s 1937 It Can’t Happen Here.

That book was about “Oh God, Fascism could come to the US and we’d all be fucked!” Roth’s novel was all “OI! What did us Jews do to deserve this?”

At that point I figured Roth was writing for an Audience and I gave up on him.

Naipaul, I never bothered with.

Ha! At work, I’m surrounded by physical geographers – they think of me as – what’s the opposite of “physical”? Mental? Disembodied? Intangible?

He’s also loathed by some other postcolonialist critics - Edward Said called him “an intellectual catastrophe”, Nissim Ezekiel wasn’t a fan of his non-fic writing on India either.