Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Irascible Prophet

Time for a quick literary quiz.

He does not like what Graham Green did to himself.

You know, he took the Graham Greene figure to the Congo, took him to Argentina, took him to Haiti, for no rhyme or reason.

His heroes are Tolstoy and Dickens.

He followed Conrad in his journey.

He finds Proust ''tedious,'' ''repetitive,'' ''self-indulgent,'' concerned only with a character's social status.

He does not like ''Ulysses'' too -- ''the Irish book...and other works that have to lean on borrowed stories.''

He also finds Stendhal ''repetitive, tedious, infuriating.''

And his greatest disappointment is Flaubert.

Who is he?

Who else but the cantankerous prophet, V S Naipaul.

Naipaul always raises important issues. He declared the novel form dead long ago, and yet he writes one or two every few years. He says, in a recent NYT interview, that he found the non-fiction form much more satisfying and honest. Excerpts:

''If you write a novel alone you sit and you weave a little narrative. And it's O.K., but it's of no account,'' Naipaul said. ''If you're a romantic writer, you write novels about men and women falling in love, etc., give a little narrative here and there. But again, it's of no account.''

What is of account, in Naipaul's view, is the larger global political situation -- in particular, the clash between belief and unbelief in postcolonial societies.

Read this fascinating interview with this great writer with Rachel Danadio here. Includes MP3s. Go for it.

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