It has become the fashion to knock VS Naipaul. Yes, he is a fine prose stylist, and has written some good books (so the wisdom goes), but his recent novels have been shapeless and repetitive and his writing abilities have been eclipsed by his general grumpiness and his reactionary views on such matters as race and multiculturalism.
This account, while reasonable in many ways, leaves out what it is that made Naipaul such a good and original writer in the first place. In his elegant review of Naipaul’s new essay collection in the latest issue of Prospect, Ian Jack reminds us. Naipaul arrived in Britain in the 1950s to find a society which, although attractive in some respects, was of little use to him as a writer. European society had, as Jack puts it, been “crawled over” by the great British, French and Russian novelists. And so Naipaul had to find “a new way of writing, entirely his own, because he could find no models that fitted his experience.” Do Prospect readers agree with Jack’s assessment? Leave your comments here.