He was detested by the intellectuals of the third world and called, among other things, a "restorer of the comforting myths of the white race" (Chinua Achebe), "a despicable praise of neocolonialism" (HB Singh) and a "cold and mocking prophet" ( Eric Roach).
He made enemies as easily as he sipped tea. He said: "I read a piece of writing and in a paragraph or two I know if it's from a woman or not [it is] unequal for me. "She has physically abused Margaret Murray, her lover for many years, and has spoken openly of dislike for overweight people and visiting prostitutes, a bindi on a woman's forehead means, she said," My head is empty. "
He had so many ardent defenders. Ian Buruma, editor of The New York Review of Books, felt it was a mistake to see Naipaul as "an obscure man who imitates the prejudices of the white imperialists". He wrote: "This vision is not only superficial, it is wrong." Naipaul's anger is not the result of not being able to feel the situation of the native, on the contrary, he is angry because he feels it so deeply. "
At best, Naipaul's work has made these questions almost questionable. He was a self-styled heir to Joseph Conrad and legitimate. "This is what I would ask the writer," he once said. "How much of the modern world contains his work?" Naipaul's work contained multitudes – subtle and overlapping meanings, only rarely bat. It is the subject of an excellent biography, "The world is what it is" (2008), by Patrick French – a good starting point, together with "A House for Mr. Biswas", for those interested in work of Naipaul.
Naipaul was a difficult man. He cultivated an air of arrogance. He treated interviewers how cats treat mice, condescend them, and ask themselves, in their opinion, naive and ridiculous questions. Yet those who knew him also spoke of his personal warmth.
An example will suffice. In her new memoir, "A Life of My Own", the English biographer Claire Tomalin writes that she fell ill while she was having lunch with Naipaul in the early 1980s. He canceled both their orders and asked for a cup of tea and a jug of hot milk, which they shared before suggesting a refreshing walk along the river. "I decided that Vidia was not only one of the great writers of his generation," he wrote, "he was also the kindest of men".
Naipaul has overcome a lot, including years of neglect, before becoming a writer. He had determination and a sense of destiny. "I knew the door I wanted," he wrote. "I knocked."