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Myshkin

RIP V.S. Naipaul

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An incredible asshole, and until yesterday quite possibly the world’s greatest living author. Naipaul’s novels are powerful, thought provoking, enraging, and moving. If you haven’t read him yet, you really should. R.I.P.

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I would recommend a House for Mr Biswas and a Bend in the River for anyone picking up Naipaul for the first time. 

Many of the obituaries focus on his personal nastiness and his brutality to his first wife and mistress, or the controversial statements he made in his later years and passed off as brutal truth telling (though they were mostly performance art and craving for attention -- he would have done exceedingly well on twitter). 

But the prose is sublime and his understanding of dispossession, pride, despair profound.  He taught the Western world to understand coloured, disenfranchised humanity as it existed in the 50's, 60's and 70's as fully human.   

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Wow, immense wealth, a knighthood, a Nobel prize...and I've never heard of him.

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On 8/18/2018 at 6:25 AM, Gaston de Foix said:

I would recommend a House for Mr Biswas and a Bend in the River for anyone picking up Naipaul for the first time. 

Many of the obituaries focus on his personal nastiness and his brutality to his first wife and mistress, or the controversial statements he made in his later years and passed off as brutal truth telling (though they were mostly performance art and craving for attention -- he would have done exceedingly well on twitter). 

But the prose is sublime and his understanding of dispossession, pride, despair profound.  He taught the Western world to understand coloured, disenfranchised humanity as it existed in the 50's, 60's and 70's as fully human.   

Everything in this post is spot on. Naipaul’s works deal with what it means to be truly homeless, to have no place in the world. And no one was better suited to show us what that meant. Because despite his wealth and acclaim Naipaul was always the stranger in a strange land, with no history or culture of which to call his own. He showed us the rage of the dispossessed, and he refused to make it noble. It is nasty, and ugly, and heartbreaking, and human. 

For me the beauty of literature is that at its best it allows us to experience the world in a way that, due to the circumstances of our birth, we might never have otherwise experienced it. And V.S. Naipaul was the best in the world at doing that.

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On 8/18/2018 at 2:25 PM, Gaston de Foix said:

I would recommend a House for Mr Biswas and a Bend in the River for anyone picking up Naipaul for the first time. 

Many of the obituaries focus on his personal nastiness and his brutality to his first wife and mistress, or the controversial statements he made in his later years and passed off as brutal truth telling (though they were mostly performance art and craving for attention -- he would have done exceedingly well on twitter). 

But the prose is sublime and his understanding of dispossession, pride, despair profound.  He taught the Western world to understand coloured, disenfranchised humanity as it existed in the 50's, 60's and 70's as fully human.   

I've been debating with myself on whether or not to respond to this. But I've decided that I feel too strongly not to.

I find the bolded to be very problematic. His "personal nastiness and brutality to his first wife and mistress" is something quite huge, in my humble opinion. I see this with male "geniuses" all the time, people are willing to overlook horrors that these men commit in the name of "learning to separate the man from the artist." I'm not pointing to you, specifically, but to society's general disregard for the female victims of male "geniuses."

This is something Naipaul said: "I was very violent with her [the mistress] for two days with my hand; my hand began to hurt... She didn’t mind it at all. She thought of it in terms of my passion for her. Her face was bad. She couldn’t appear really in public. My hand was swollen. I was utterly helpless. I have enormous sympathy for people who do strange things out of passion." I mean, this is a man who beat a woman until his hand hurt; then spoke of it casually, without any kind of fear for consequences (professional or personal), knowing full well that his star power would protect him. Also, the woman in question has gone on to say that she absolutely did mind. His wife also minded very much that he carried on an affair for the better of their marriage, to the point where, as said by Naipaul himself, he destroyed her.

I don't mean to be preachy and this isn't a personal attack against you, but this disturbed me so much because of #MeToo and how so many "brilliant" men were essentially allowed, by a whole industry, to molest women; and because after Trump got elected people were asking "how did this happen?" I'm one of the people who think it happened because too often, when it comes to men, we're very quick to say "his personal nastiness has nothing to do with his professional potential/achievements." We whitewash, in most case, men; because we think their brilliance/talent should be enough to excuse their "personal nastiness." This is how we end up in a world where Roman Polanski and Woody Allen are still revered.

Also, I found A Bend in the River to be deeply problematic and think that Naipaul was a racist man who romanticised colonialism, and his thoughts on Africa were born out of his superiority complex and racism, in my not so humble opinion. His hatred for black people was very clear, and this, along with his deplorable treatment of women, are personal nastinesses I can't overlook when remembering the writer, especially since I believe any artist's ideology ultimately informs their art.

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18 hours ago, Kyoshi said:

I've been debating with myself on whether or not to respond to this. But I've decided that I feel too strongly not to.

I find the bolded to be very problematic. His "personal nastiness and brutality to his first wife and mistress" is something quite huge, in my humble opinion. I see this with male "geniuses" all the time, people are willing to overlook horrors that these men commit in the name of "learning to separate the man from the artist." I'm not pointing to you, specifically, but to society's general disregard for the female victims of male "geniuses."

 This is something Naipaul said: "I was very violent with her [the mistress] for two days with my hand; my hand began to hurt... She didn’t mind it at all. She thought of it in terms of my passion for her. Her face was bad. She couldn’t appear really in public. My hand was swollen. I was utterly helpless. I have enormous sympathy for people who do strange things out of passion." I mean, this is a man who beat a woman until his hand hurt; then spoke of it casually, without any kind of fear for consequences (professional or personal), knowing full well that his star power would protect him. Also, the woman in question has gone on to say that she absolutely did mind. His wife also minded very much that he carried on an affair for the better of their marriage, to the point where, as said by Naipaul himself, he destroyed her.

I don't mean to be preachy and this isn't a personal attack against you, but this disturbed me so much because of #MeToo and how so many "brilliant" men were essentially allowed, by a whole industry, to molest women; and because after Trump got elected people were asking "how did this happen?" I'm one of the people who think it happened because too often, when it comes to men, we're very quick to say "his personal nastiness has nothing to do with his professional potential/achievements." We whitewash, in most case, men; because we think their brilliance/talent should be enough to excuse their "personal nastiness." This is how we end up in a world where Roman Polanski and Woody Allen are still revered.

Also, I found A Bend in the River to be deeply problematic and think that Naipaul was a racist man who romanticised colonialism, and his thoughts on Africa were born out of his superiority complex and racism, in my not so humble opinion. His hatred for black people was very clear, and this, along with his deplorable treatment of women, are personal nastinesses I can't overlook when remembering the writer, especially since I believe any artist's ideology ultimately informs their art.

I agree with you. I don't believe I said that we should overlook or excuse the fact he behaved monstrously. I think four things: 

1.  He was almost universally condemned for his behavior and his remarks.  The fact is that his behavior was debating in the New York Review of Books and in a major biography (before the Metoo movement started) and many obituaries is evidence of how reviled his behavior was, and how much they affected his reputation. 

2. I think Naipaul was an abusive, neglectful even monstrous husband.  But he didn't "destroy" his wife.  She died of cancer, and his own statements that he killed or "destroyed" her are not true.   

3.  I think you are right that the Me too movement is teaching us how abhorrent it is that men like Naipaul, Polanski and Allen have gotten free passes. I think there should be social condemnation. I also think the women in question, both of them, should have spoken out, left him, and in the case of his mistress filed a criminal complaint. I want to teach my daughters to be strong, not weak in the face of this kind of behavior.  But I also think the crimes were, for each man, different.  And the real lesson from the Rob Porters and Naipauls' of the world is not that this is special treatment accorded to male artists or celebrities (although there is some of that), but that there is special treatment accorded to men, part by women and in part by other men. That has to stop. 

4.  I worry that the most insidious of these cruelties is not in fact being capable of being socially restrained in the world we live in.  After all, his emotional neglect, infidelity, public cruelty, abandoning partners for someone younger etc. is increasingly common and accepted.  I'm not sure MeToo has a cure for that.  

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