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Monday, June 2, 2008

Naipaul vs Walcott

V.S.Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize for his fabulous novel "A House
for Mr. Biswas" is also very famous for making controversial
statements and finding himself embroiled in controversies. This time
it is a little different. His later novels, Half a Life and Magic
Seeds are garnering criticism from Derek Walcott.

The UK based publication, "The Telegraph" says in an article, "The St
Lucian writer composed a poem, which he read it at a literary festival
in Jamaica, that mocked his contemporary as a mongoose. According to
the New Statesman, Walcott told an audience at the Calabash Literary
Festival: "I'm going to be nasty," before reading The Mongoose, which
opens with the lines: "I have been bitten. I must avoid infection. Or
else I'll be as dead as Naipaul's fiction." The poem attacks Naipaul's
later novels Half a Life and Magic Seeds, with the words: "The plots
are forced, the prose sedate and silly. The anti-hero is a prick named

The rest of the article is makes for interesting reading and goes like this --
"Walcott expresses disbelief that this Naipaul can be the same author
who wrote A House for Mr Biswas, which won the Nobel prize.

The septuagenarians have been at odds for years, with Walcott once
calling Naipaul, who lives in Wiltshire, "VS Nightfall" in verse.

In the poem there is a coded reference to Naipaul's essay on Walcott,
published in 2007, which praised Walcott.

Many took it to be a back-handed compliment, as he enthused about the
poet's writing in the 1940s, implying that he had not written anything
as good since.

Walcott, whose latest book White Egrets will be released soon, has
expressed his anger at what he sees as Naipaul's rejection of his
Caribbean heritage in order to gain acceptance from the British
literary establishment.

In particular, he is outraged that Naipaul, whose ancestors were
Indian labourers who moved to Trinidad in the 19th century, thanked
Britain and India in his Nobel acceptance speech, but not the country
of his birth.

The poem's title refers to an animal that was imported from India
under the British empire. As Walcott puts it: "The mongoose takes its
orders from the Raj."

Both writers have refused to comment on the poem. However, Patrick
French, Naipaul's biographer, said: "Knowing Naipaul, he'll say
nothing and then at some point he will lash out. He said to me once,
'I settle all my accounts.'"

This article can be accessed at--

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