V.S. Naipaul Talks Smack About Jane Austen

MADRID, SPAIN: English writer and literature Nobel Prize 2001, Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul poses during a photocall before a conference in Madrid, 27 May 2002. Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born in 1932, near Port of Spain in Trinidad, in a family descended from Hindu immigrants from northern India. His father was a journalist. He went to England at the age of 18 to study at Oxford University, and has lived in England since then, devoting himself to writing. His work includes 'The Mystic Masseur' (1957), his first work, a novel; 'Miguel Street' (1959), short stories establishing Naipaul as a humorist; 'A House for Mr. Biswas' (1961); 'The Loss of El Dorado' (1969), a colonial history of Trinidad, and 'Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples' (1998), a description of the eastern regions of Islamic world. AFP PHOTO Pierre-Philippe MARCOU (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images

V.S. Naipaul is the Nobel Prize–winning author of such seminal postcolonial novels as A Bend in the River and notoriously not the nicest man in the world. (You don't have to be nice to be good.) Having just this week resolved a fifteen-year beef with a former protégé, travel writer Paul Theroux, Naipaul decided to start one with all female writers. Speaking to the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday, Naipaul 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 be fair, one suspects Naipaul does not believe there are many male writers equal to him, either, but he did make the insult more specific (and indicate, once again, what a great husband he must have been) by adding that women write with "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world" because "inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too." When he was asked about Jane Austen in particular, Naipaul said he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world," which goes a long way toward explaining why Pride and Prejudice will still be much more widely read in 200 years than A House for Mr. Biswas. [Guardian UK]