In defense of V. S. Naipaul


As a person, especially those who have read Patrick French’s authorized biography The World Is What It Is, V. S. Naipaul seems indefensible. For some, his failures as a person obscure his accomplishments as a writer. Nora Khan, A Bangladeshi-American writer, has published a defense of Naipaul in which she makes a valid point about the separation of the writer’s shortcomings as a person from the texts he has produced. Here are some excerpts—the complete article can be accessed through the link below.

Naipaul is, foremost, an ascetic writer, dedicated to seeing the world clearly and without sentimentality. He has often said, “good writers have always looked for truth,” and beginning with The Mystic Masseur in 1957, he has insisted that he, as a writer, be held to and judged by his word. (It may be just this desire that laid him, eventually, open to attack.) In a decade where violence exists at a remove, Naipaul’s constant dedication to “looking directly” is especially important.

Naipaul’s belief in a new form of autonomy for the human is liberating. He is a writer who encourages us continually to question, to write about the world with the freedom of a person with no home, no country, no affiliations. His testimony, his witness, set the bar high for writers. V.S. Naipaul changed the way fiction is understood and written, without qualification. As he said so well, “the books have to look after themselves, and they will be around as long as people find that they are illuminating”. His books will certainly look after themselves, taking on the personified life of text living on outside and apart from their author.

For the article go to

3 thoughts on “In defense of V. S. Naipaul

  1. I find it baffling that a person can read Naipaul’s books and end up discussing the writer as a person. I would think that a reader should read the book which is an entity in itself. Judge the book as a piece of art, fiction or whatever you choose but leave the writer as a person out of your assessment. This is very often the case with Naipaul. A writer writes about people and places and the characters he meets. The writer stands outside his work and looks in and records as he sees. The writer, except otherwise stated, is not a character in the book, but he is an observer. Use this and you may get much more out of Naipaul’s wriings.

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