Naipaul’s unpleasant encounter in South Africa


V. S. Naipaul, who is in South Africa doing research for his next novel, had an unpleasant encounter with would-be attackers in Johannesburg. The altercation occurred when the chauffeur-driven van in which he was traveling with his wife and a friend was forced off the road by another car. The incident happened as they were on their way from the Grace Hotel in Rosebank, northern Johannesburg to Lion Park, northwest of the city. Two men of Middle-Eastern or Indian descent, dressed in dark suits and wearing dark glasses, jumped out of the unmarked white car and started shouting at them, demanding their IDs and wanting to know if they were Zimbabwean. Once satisfied that the party was not Zimbabwean, the men wanted to know if they had drugs on them.

“I really thought we were being hijacked. I thought this is it, it’s happening. They all told us that Johannesburg is a very criminal city and now it’s happening to us,” said Nadira Naipaul, the writer’s wife. “(My husband) is shaken but he’s okay. He just felt helpless.”

Naipaul’s presence in South Africa has been, according to the Book South Africa site, very “hush-hush,” and the site had jokingly put a “bounty” on Naipaul’s head, offering a reward for any report of a sighting or a photograph of him in South Africa:

When VS Naipaul – who has a bit of a history with this continent – visits Africa, it’s big news, and BOOK SA is keen to bring you more on his trip. We’re thus shamelessly going to place a bounty on his head: anyone who can shed additional light on “Naipaul in South Africa 2009” should write to with your tip; and anyone who can supply BOOK SA with a bona fide photograph of the author in Johannesburg that we can publish will receive a handsome sum (by SA Lit standards).

The editors of BOOK SA speculate that Naipaul is researching a book on religion:

. . . the going rumour is that he’s in South Africa “right now”, doing research on a new book. On religion? Possibly on religion. We’ve heard that he’s doing a book on religion. But that’s pure speculation, reproduced here to give this post the semblance of substance.

For the original report on the “incident” go to

For the Books SA bounty campaign go to

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