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v. Naipaul, a writer of many contradictions and manifesting greatness

He was disgusted by third-world intellectuals, calling, among other things, a "resurrection of the consoling myths of the white race" (Chinua Achebe), "a shameful lackey of neocolonialism" (HB Singh) and a "cold and snappy prophet" Roach).

He made enemies as easy as tipping tea. He said, "I read a letter and within a paragraph or two, I know whether it's a woman or not. I think [it is] uneven to me." He physically abused his mistress Margaret Murray for many years. He spoke openly about misleading obese people and about visiting prostitutes. A bum on a woman's forehead means he said, "My head is empty."

He had as many sincere defenders. Ian Buruma, editor of the New York Review of Books, thought it was a mistake to see Naipaul as "a dark man imitating the prejudices of the white imperialists." He wrote: "This perception is not just superficial, it's wrong. Naipai's fury is not a result of his failure to know the native's situation. On the contrary, he is angry with the fact that he feels so earnestly."

At its best Naipaiul's work made almost these questions. He was a self-styled heir to Joseph Conrad and a legitimate. "This is what I would ask for the author," he said once. "How much of the modern world contains his work?" Naipaiul's work contained amounts – subtle and overlapping meanings, but rarely the sledding hammer. He is the subject of an excellent biography, "The World Is What It Is" (2008), by Patrick French – a good starting point with "A House for Mr. Biswas" for those who are interested in Naipaiul's work. [19659002] Naipaul was a difficult man. He cultivated an air of superciliousness. He treated interviewers how cats treat mice, patronize them and pouncing on their, in his opinion, naive and ridiculous questions. But those who knew him also talked about their personal warmth.

An example is enough. In the new memoir, "A Own Life," the English cinema Claire Tomalin writes about getting sick when she was having lunch with Naipaul in the early 1980s. He interrupted both his orders and requested a pot of tea and a jar of warm milk, which they shared before proposing a restoring walk by the river. "I decided Vidia was not just one of the great writers of her generation," she wrote, "he was also the kindest man."

Naipaul surpassed a great deal, including years of neglect, before making it as a writer. He had determination and sense of destiny. "I knew the door I wanted," he wrote. "I knocked."

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