V.S Naipaul finds no Woman Writer his Equal

I have not yet read any book by Nobel prize winner, Naipaul but his growing sense of criticisms on the literary scene keeps interesting me to pick up his books – perhaps, to know his worth as a writer.

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the “greatest living writer of English prose”, was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: “I don’t think so.” Of Austen he said he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”.

Of the interview, what shocked me of the many responses was his claim that he could easily detect a book by a woman writer only by reading some few paragraphs. He actually said: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”

To butress his point, he said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. “And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too”.

I am completely taken aback with Naipaul’s thoughts and responses and I may want to know what you make of this. Would you agree with him? Would you disagree with him? Have you read any book by Naipaul? Is he that good that even Jane Austen cannot match up with him?

See an overview of his responses here.


16 Responses to V.S Naipaul finds no Woman Writer his Equal

  1. winstonsdad says:

    you have to wonder is Naipaul just saying this to stir up debate or out of real feelings ,after he has just m,ad e uo with theroux it seems a strange thing to do alienate so many people ,all the best stu


  2. amymckie says:

    I still can’t believe he said that, but then, when reading his book he has a very colonial mentality in that he seems to find his own country inferior to England and so it isn’t surprising that he would think that men are better the same way that he thinks England is better. There is an online quiz, I forget where the link is now though, to test out if you can tell what was written by a man and what by a woman to test his theory! But yes, to quote loosely from the Joanna Russ book I reviewed last week, you can’t call something (i.e. literature) complete if you are dismissing half of the experiences of humanity.


    • Geosi says:

      Amy, I would soon be trying my hands on the quiz although I know I cannot determine a woman’s work by paragraph. I still want to get to the core of it why he nurtures that colonial mentality anyway – perhaps I would have to try one or two of his books. Thanks for that quote there – he ought to read that!!


  3. I have read two Naipaul. And they are on both ends. Whereas A House for Mr Biswas was excellent except a few ‘inferiority’ complexes coming up just as Amy said, A Bend in the River is clearly Naipaulic. Just like his latest A Masque of Africa. He seems to think very high of himself. I wait to see how posterity would judge him. I personally don’t like him and it was in response to his latest book that I wrote ‘A Curve in the Bend’.

    The quiz that Amy is referring to is at the guardian’s website.


    • Geosi says:

      Would look out for Mr Biswas. And yes… I read your poem which was beautifully written…One I think he ought to read himself. I will be checking up on the quiz although I personally know it would be difficult for me to determine a woman’s writing by only a paragraph or two.


  4. JoV says:

    I read this on the train back from London last Friday and I was seething with anger…. misogynist. I am now thinking of putting his book from my shelf to the bin.


  5. SarahNorman says:

    Oh, do try A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS! It is brilliant. That quiz in the Guardian is actually really hard, I think. I would LOVE to hear if Naipaul tried it – I bet he would not do well. What a jerk!


  6. Biblibio says:

    I also haven’t read anything by Naipaul and though I think his comments are just attention-seeking and stupid, I probably will eventually. I wonder if there’s any justification for that giant ego…?


  7. Adura Ojo says:

    I think I might have read one work of his while on my English degree two odd decades ago. Ironically, I remember vividly the works of fine authors like Jane Austen, Buchi Emecheta, Thomas Hardy and Chinua Achebe. I can’t remember what work of his I read. All I remember now ever so vaguely is his name!


  8. Torgbui Michael says:

    I also thin that Naipaul was too harsh and inconsiderate in that assertion. I have read a lot of novels by female writers and especially Austen. And I think Jane Austen is a fantastic writer. And for Naipaul to make such an unfortunate claim, i think its too out of place for man of his stature.

    Even if we should measure the worth of a book, i would like to ask Naipaul of the empirical grounds on which he think his work is superior to women.


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