i do not have time for deep reflections now as 2
course preps for tomorrow are still to be undertaken.
first, i read the early, trinidad novels of
naipaul, and then on to bend in the river, among
the unbelievers. after that i pretty much stopped.
i will rely on your reflections to answer the
question i posed: what would a racist author look
like? i am not really interested in obtaining the
answer from the nobel committee, but rather from
the engaged scholars here on this list, and other
experts in naipaul. you know his work much more than i do. enlighten us.
he wrote of 3d world intellectuals as attempting
to become civilized by imitating the real thing,
english intellectuals who were not afraid to
assert the primacy of their venerable
civilization. he bought the crap lock stock and
barrel, and those who were not up to the task
were mere mimic men. africa then became the site
for the feebleness of imitation, the failed
assimilation policies of the colonizers who never
really meant it, and of a barbarism closer to
conrad's imagery than say achebe's. there is no
humanity in the naipaul africans; the indians of
africa were cynics out for a buck, making their
way through the savages; naipaul opened a cynical
eye onto the political scene, and that was enough
for the superior tastes of europeans who don't
know a thing about actual african people to be wowed by him.
there was nothing left; no love, no beauty, no
humanity, no possibility except to follow his own
path to the hallowed halls of oxford, or was it cambridge.
he was interviewed by an ayatollah in Among the
Believers, and asked where he came from. he
stated, the islands. but, he tells the reader,
the real answer would have been england, oxford,
the real home for an intellectual like himself.
the islands were long since left behind.
i could have continued reading his entertaining
books, but my time was limited. was i to spend
the valuable time on him, or on soyinka's latest,
on the newest nigerian stars, on the latest
senegalese film? stories of naipaul's horrific
views of black people continued to be circulated,
comments that a colleague from the netherlands
relayed to me, confirming the worst impressions
of racist beliefs. i do not have time to devote
to him while i still have an unread assia djebar
novel to read. i commend djebar to us all; she is
beauty itself; he is the opposite
At 06:37 AM 8/31/2010, you wrote:
>Professor Harrow & Co,
>I'm seeking some more direction from you.
>At this very moment I'm strangely reminded of Ulli Beier of whom I
>heard an anthropologist joke that he was he was leaving Nigeria for
>Papua New Guinea, which he described as â€œ another area of darknessâ€
>Some people see, have seen Naipaul and Rushdie as the Wild West's
>literary attack dogs who in fiction and non-fiction peer into our
>backwardness, to wage war on cherished religious and cultural values
>and the life lived outside of the pale of Western Civilisation, the
>Western Civilisation of which when asked, Mahatma Gandhi said â€œI
>think it would be a good idea.â€
>I erroneously referred to â€œAmong the Believersâ€ as post -Salman
>Rushdie, because it has been around for so long; perhaps it even paved
>the way for â€œ The Satanic Versesâ€ and enjoyed even greater popularity
>after Rushdie's controversial novel.
>We all agree that V.S. Naipaul is an engaging writer, perhaps a great
>writer, one that we do not neglect and some of us seem to be forced to
>read, just because he visits some of our natural habitats. Is that not
>The Nobel Prize committee awarded Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
>the Nobel Prize in Literature for largesse of spirit, not for for
>being a racist or for being â€œone of the great racist writers of our
>time â€œ but "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible
>scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed
>After the award he has not rested on his laurels but suitably
>encouraged and rewarded has continued in the same vein, turning his
>lights on and exposing other areas of darkness with even greater
>intensity ( insensitivity?) and gained an even greater audience.
>Can he also be accused of rank dishonesty in his â€œBeyond Belief:
>Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoplesâ€ ?
>I got a copy of his â€œ Half a lifeâ€ from his Swedish literary agent for
>Christmas, 2001 or 2 .She was at the Noble Banquet and may have a
>soft heart for him and seems to to think that he's a nice bloke.
>That's women for you, can have a soft spot for every kind of
>scoundrel. Beauty and the Beast.
> But does the Selection committee of the Swedish Academy need to have
>their heads examined ? Do they see the â€œracismâ€ that you see in the
>unrepentant Naipaul or do you think that conscious as he is, he is
>simply unaware of it ? Was it a mistake to award him the Nobel Prize
>and should we tolerate the Swedish Academy awarding such prizes to
>writers such as Sir Vidia or should the prize be withdrawn now or even
>On Aug 30, 4:43Â pm, kenneth harrow <har...@msu.edu> wrote:
> > i need to simplify in responding here, to
> both friends cornelius and ikhide:
> > the problem is not that naipaul mounted
> > criticisms of africa or africans. but that all he
> > sees of africa and africans is evil. perhaps we
> > can say that there were real flaws in black
> > culture after the american civil war, and that
> > depicting the legislatures in the south as
> > dysfunctional was an accepted critique. but Â if
> > all one sees are subhumans in those who represent
> > the flaws, one is generating racist stereotypes,
> > not simply critiquing. there has to be a
> > difference between the two, between a critique
> > generated from the perspective that those being
> > critiqued are still human like all humans, and
> > another that evokes their animality and evil
> > natures as those of inferior beings, as meriting
> > being spit upon, as those whose vaginas merit
> > being spit upon....naipaul's scene, not mine, in bend in the river.
> > if naipaul is not a racist, maybe griffith's
> > birth of a nation isn't, and the greatest emblems
> > of racism are merely humorous criticisms.
> > maybe not.
> > tell me how to read someone who consistently
> > represents dark skinned people as inferior, if not as a racist.
> > ken
> > At 08:40 AM 8/30/2010, you wrote:
> > >I have not yet read Naipaul's latest but from the comments on this
> > >page and the Guardian's review, my expectations are great:
> > >http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/29/vs-naipaul-masque-of-afri...
> > > Â Jonathan Franzen may write with the principle in mind, that Ã¢€œThe
> > >reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.Ã¢€ Â - and perhaps
> > >this is also Naipual's operative approach, since Â we can tell by his
> > >book sales that he does have a very large and appreciative readership.
> > >Is it safe to conclude then that he panders to the appetite and
> > >expectations of his faithful fans/readers who want some more of the
> > >same or must we credit him with being absolutely faithful to his own
> > >experience, his own perceptions, like the true literary artist and
> > >essayist he is?
> > >Or is there no such thing?
> > >I remember in 2001, when it was announced that V.S. had been awarded
> > >the Nobel Prize in Literature. I called up two friends, one a great
> > >intellectual from Guadeloupe and the other from Jamaica, to
> > >congratulate them Â They both said exactly Â the same thing, one
> > >word:Ã¢€ Collie-manÃ¢€ , which is a
> Carribean's 's derogatory description of an
> > >Indian. Naipaul had already pissed them off.
> > >In as far as biographical heresy can be applied to throw light on Mr.
> > >Naipaul's literary output, Paul Theroux's
> Ã¢€œSir Vidiaia's ShadowÃ¢€ Â has
> > >given the most unkindest cut of all.
> > >Paul Theroux should know. Had Sir Vidia written his ( Theroux's) Ã¢€œ
> > >Fong and the IndiansÃ¢€ Â someone would have seen racismm in the depiction
> > >of Africans in that novel and perhaps cried, where I laughed at what I
> > >thought was funny
> > >Whether it is with V.S.'s Ã¢€œAn Area of
> DarknessÃ¢Ã¢€ Â - written about his
> > >visit to his ancestral India, or his post-Salman Rushdie Â Ã¢â‚¬œAmong the
> > >BelieversÃ¢€ about Islam and Islamists or the much referred to and in my
> > >opinion innocuous Ã¢€œ A Bend in The
> RiverÃ¢â‚â‚¬ Â one of Â Naipaul's functions
> > >then is to prick us to some critical self-examination as Â Lord Ikhide
> > >has just done. And for that should Naipaul Â - or his brother Shiva
> > >Naipaul ( North of SouthÃ¢€ ) be blighted?
> > >Professor Harrow sounds remarkably like my dear Dr. Valentine Ojo when
> > >he says what he says about V..S: Naipaul.
> > >Perhaps, if Naipual had been Black instead of Brown, African, instead
> > >of an Indian British Lord examining other cultures from the
> > >perspective of a higher (the standards of Â Western Civilisation), and
> > >seeing Africa and India through the lens of his higher culture, we
> > >would not be accusing him of racism.
> > >What then would we be accusing him Â on the basis of his written woord?
> > >Arrogance?
> > >The sort of cynicism that Evelyn Waugh has been accused of?
> > >What?
> > >I pause for a reply.
> > >On Aug 29, 10:07Ã‚ pm, Moses Ebe Ochonu <meoch...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > > > Naipaul is irredeemable, a lost cause.
> The man cannot even cultivate and
> > > > sustain personal relationships with his
> > > literary peers, crossing people left
> > > > and right and telling them to "take it in
> the cheek like a man." He can't
> > > > help himself in his role as a "Third
> World" advocate of Eucentric, racist
> > > > universalism.
> > > > The man deserves more pity than engagement.
> > > > On Sun, Aug 29, 2010 at 12:10 PM, kenneth
> harrow <har...@msu.edu> wrote:
> > > > > Ã‚ naipaul is one of the great racist
> writers of our time. a bend in the
> > > > > river evokes every negative stereotype
> > > about africans imaginable; his cover?
> > > > > 1. he is "third world" 2.mobuto's
> reign, and before it, lumumba's, was
> > > > > regarded by naipaul's kind of readers and editors as uncivilized.
> > > > > uncivilized means non-british, non-european, savage etc etc
> > > > > naipaul is the true exemplar of ox-cam
> british snobbism and racism toward
> > > > > africa, and the rest of the third world. really
> > > > > ken harrow
> > > > > At 11:36 AM 8/29/2010, you wrote:
> > > > > ----- Forwarded Message ----
> > > > > *From:* Errol Harry <errolharr...@yahoo.com>
> > > > > *Sent:* Sun, August 29, 2010 6:16:07 PM
> > > > > *Subject:* Naipaul's latest book on Africa
> > > > > *The Masque of Africa by V S Naipaul: review*
> > > > > *Sameer Rahim is puzzled by the ageing
> > > Nobel Prize winnerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢‚Â¬™s punishing
> > > > > quest to expose AfricaÃƒÂ¢€™s religious illillusions *
> > >*
> > > > > By Sameer Rahim
> > > > > Published: 5:19PM BST 27 Aug 2010
> > > > > Ã‚
> > >
> > > > > [image: The Masque of Africa by V S Naipaul]
> > > > > The Masque of Africa by V S Naipaul
> > > > > V S NaipaulÃƒÂ¢€™s father was once forced td to
> > > sacrificfice a goat to the Hindu
> > > > > goddess Kali. In June 1933, when Vidia was
> > > still a baby, Seepersad Naipaul
> > > > > had written an article in the *Trinidad Guardian* criticising Hindu
> > > > > farmers who ignored government regulations
> > > and inoculated their cattle with
> > > > > religious rites.
> > > > > His angry opponents threatened him with a poisoning curse unless he
> > > > > appeased the goddess. He refused at first but soon relented: wearing
> > > > > trousers rather than the traditional
> loincloth (his small rebellion), he
> > > > > offered up a severed goatÃƒÂ¢€™s head on a a brass platlate.
> > > > > In that SundayÃƒÂ¢€™s paper he was all
> > > bluster: Ãƒ: ÃƒÂ¢€œMr Naipaul greets you! No
> > > > > Poison last nightÃƒÂ¢€ . But this ÃƒÂ¢ââ‚¬œgreat
> > > eat humiliationÃƒÂ¢€ , as his son wrote in
> > > > > *Finding the Centre* (1984), destroyed
> his life. He lost his job and sunk
> > > > > into depression. According to NaipaulÃƒÂ¢€™â„¢s
> > > mother, r, ÃƒÂ¢€œHe looked in the mirror
> > > > > one day and couldnÃƒÂ¢€™t see himself.
> And nd he began tn to scream.ÃƒÂ¢€
> > > > > Over the course of his long writing career,
> > > VÃƒÂ¢€‰S Â°S NaipaulÃƒÂ¢€Â¢â‚¬™s view of
> > >f
> > > > > religion has moved Â much like this story Â
> > > from om thethe potentially comic to
> > > > > the outright sinister. His first published
> > > novel, *The Mystic Masseur *(1957),
> > > > > was a satire on a fake pundit. In his
> > > masterpiece *A House for Mr Biswas*(1961) the
> > > title character (based on Seepersad) is expelled from his
> > > > > training as a Hindu priest when he
> pollutes some sacred flowers with his
> > > > > excrement. His travel book on India,
> *An Area of Darkness* (1964), took a
> > > > > harsher view of Hinduism and the caste
> > > system and after 1970, when he first
> > > > > learnt about his fatherÃƒÂ¢€™s ritual
> > > humiliation (th(the family had kept it an
> > > > > absolute secret), his work took on an unforgiving tone.
> > > > > *Among the Believers* (1981) and *Beyond Belief* (1998) blamed the
> > > > > problems in Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia
> and Pakistan exclusively on Islam.
> > > > > Third World peoples who refused to abandon
> > > their ancestral illusions for the
> > > > > civilised and secular values of the West Â
> > > as Naipaul has so ccconspicuously
> > > > > done Â are, he believes, condemned to backwardness.
> > > > > Now he has travelled to six countries Â
> > > Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria,, the Ivory
> > > > > Coast, Gabon and South Africa Â to
> discover the ÃƒÂ¢€Ã¢‚Â¬œœnature of African
> > > > > beliefÃƒÂ¢€ . *The Masque of Africa*
> starts in Kamppala, the ccapital of
> > > > > Uganda, where Naipaul immediately
> observes a conflict between the native
> > > > > religion, offering ÃƒÂ¢€œonly the world of
> > > the spirits a and the ancestorsÃƒÂ¢€ ,
> > > > > and the foreign religions (Islam and
> Christianity) whose new places of
> > > > > worship on the cityÃƒÂ¢€™s hills are like
> > > ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢‚Â¬œan applied andnd contagious illness,
> > > > > curing nothing, giving no final answers…
> > > fighting wrong battless, narrowing
> > > > > the mindÃƒÂ¢€ . He doess not visit these
> > > mosques and churchess; a view from the
> > > > > foothills is enough.
> > > > > When Naipaul does visit somewhere his
> observations can be acute. At the
> > > > > shrine of Mutesa I of Buganda, the
> > > 19th-century ruler who had dealings with
> > > > > John Speke and Henry Stanley, he feels a
> > > ÃƒÂ¢€œsense of f wonderÃƒÂ¢€ . But But nearby
> > > > > he notices a boy tormenting a small kitten; he protests but his guide
> > > > > assures him the boy is just playing. ÃƒÂ¢€œI
> > > didnÃƒÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢€™t believe him,ÃƒÂÃƒÂ¢€ Naipaul
> > >aul
> > > > > says. Back in the hotel, he discovers that
> > > nine men were sacrificed at the
> > > > > shrine during its construction.
> > > > > For a brief moment he allowed himself to see through the eyes of the
> > > > > faithful, before widening his vision to
> > > examine what they chose not to see.
> > > > > Naipaul has always been able to spot a
> > > fraud, and the best writing in this
> > > > > book deals with native healers and
> fortune-tellers. In Uganda he enters a
> > > > > small office and spots a framed
> certificate on the wall: the witch doctor
> > > > > has an official licence so that ÃƒÂ¢€œno
> > > believer need f feel
> > ...
> > read more Â»- Hide quoted text -
> > - Show quoted text -
>You received this message because you are
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Kenneth W. Harrow
Distinguished Professor of English
Michigan State University
fax 517 353 3755
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