Friday, August 17, 2018

Seeing the world for what it is

V.S. Naipaul died a week ago. I haven't read him and probably won't although I probably should. From David Pryce-Jones' "V.S. Naipaul: In Memoriam":
The winds of change had blown away the British Empire by then. The imperial past was presented in universities and the media as nothing but a criminal enterprise. As someone from a colony, Vidia [Naipaul] was generally expected to write briefs for the prosecution. The Middle Passage and The Loss of El Dorado show that he had no illusions about the past but was not willing to judge it by the standards of the present. Vidia was different. For him, The World Is What It Is, a definitive phrase of his that Patrick French rightly used as the title of his otherwise rather aggressive biography. Seeing the world for what it is means an end to wishful thinking about how the world ought to be. Human nature with all its virtues and vices is constant and no revolution, no electioneering, no amount of tinkering, is going to change that fact. The grim consequences that befall characters who for one reason or another fail to take the world for what it is give Vidia’s fiction its power.
Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.
.... On the morning when the Swedish Academy announced his Nobel award, I rang to congratulate him. “Oh, you’ve heard of my little spot of luck, have you.” Nadira and he invited me to accompany them to Stockholm. The moment we reached the hotel, Vidia was swept off to a television studio. On the program with him were two previous Nobel winners, Nadine Gordimer and Günter Grass. They were agreeing that poverty is the whole motivation of Islamist terror. Vidia shot back that like millions of others he came from a poor family and did not commit terror. ....