Paul Theroux says VS Naipaul “true monster”, again

Posted on April 8, 2008 
Filed Under Journalism

From TimesOnline:

When the bestselling travel writer Paul Theroux fell out with his old mentor VS Naipaul he produced a damning memoir Sir Vidia’s Shadow. But a new biography of the Nobel laureate makes him think he pulled his punches.


I did the best I could. I have an excellent memory. But I’ll admit I took a few liberties with geography, made a Malaysian dinner guest into a Kiwi and gave her a funny hat, omitted that I’d won an airgun competition at Naipaul’s house, dressed Lady Antonia Fraser in a more fetching outfit. And, because of the persistent lawyers, I blurred or omitted examples of Naipaul’s outrageous behaviour.

I wanted to write about his cruelty to his wife, his crazed domination of his mistress that lasted almost 25 years, his screaming fits, his depressions, his absurd contention that he was the greatest writer in the English language (he first made this claim in Mombasa at the age of 34). “I am a new man,” he assured me once, “as Montaigne was a new man.” But did Montaigne frequent prostitutes, insult waiters and beat his mistress?

Slash, change; slash, change. Even so, when my book appeared the reviewers howled at me for my audacity. “An unfair portrait”, “a betrayal” and the usual jibes – all of them portraying me as an envious upstart. Just a few weeks ago, in a sycophantic piece about Naipaul by a rival newspaper, my book was described as an example of “literary pique” because I had suggested that Naipaul was a monstrous egotist.

Now French’s biography amply demonstrates everything I said and more. It is not a pretty story; it will probably destroy Naipaul’s reputation for ever, this chronicle of his pretensions, his whoremongering, his treatment of a sad, sick wife and disposable mistress, his evasions, his meanness, his cruelty amounting to sadism, his race baiting. Then there is the “gruesome sex”, the blame shifting, the paranoia, the disloyalty, the nasty cracks and the whining, the ingratitude, the mood swings, the unloving and destructive personality.



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