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V.S. Naipaul Talks Smack About Jane Austen

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]

Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images