When Nobel laureate Sir VS Naipaul died on Saturday, the opinion sections of the world’s news and literary sites went into overdrive as arguments erupted about whether or not the Trinidadian born author’s notoriously reactionary politics should be separated from his undeniable skills as a prose stylist. Naipaul said terrible and undeniably offensive things about everyone from Indians to women, Muslims, other writers and friends over the course of a six-decade career that saw him acclaimed by even some of his detractors as perhaps the greatest prose writer of the 20th century.
Even Sir Salman Rushdie, a long-time opponent of Naipaul’s conservative attitudes, tweeted that, “We disagreed all our lives, about politics, about literature, and I feel as sad as if I just lost a beloved older brother. RIP Vidia.” Paul Theroux, his one time protégé, then bitterly estranged, then late in life re-embraced friend said that Naipaul, “ never wrote falsely. He was a scourge of anyone who used a cliché or an un-thought-out sentence. He was very scrupulous about his writing, very severe, too.”