Friday, September 22, 2006

V.S. Naipaul on the achievements of the British Empire

Signandsight summarizes an interview from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
Literature Nobel Prize laureate V.S. Naipaul talks in an interview with Moritz Behrendt and Daniel Gerlach about irony, travel, the export of democracy and the achievements of the Empire. "We gained much through the Empire. We Indians got things we'd never heard of before. Courts, binding laws, ideas about the value of man. Achievements of the Renaissance and the Reformation. Before that there was not even such a thing as private property in India. Everything more or less belonged to the kings. India is where it is today because of the Empire."
If you read German, experience the entire interview is here.

That flavor of political argument is not exactly a departure for Naipaul. From a mini-profile in the Guardian:
Naipaul's life and work have been characterised by his status as an outsider, first as an Indian in Trinidad, and then as a Trinidadian Indian in England. His work consistently focuses on themes of exile and belonging, and he is cited as the defining voice of post-colonial fiction. While his novels garnered critical acclaim, his travel writing drew stinging political criticism; he was labelled a reactionary and Hindu propagandist for criticising Islamic culture in Among the Believers and Beyond Belief. His talent for controversy was matched by his former protege Paul Theroux, whose feud with Naipaul became public knowledge following the publication of his memoir, Sir Vidia's Shadow. However, even his fiercest critics admire his technical mastery, with Derek Walcott admitting that he is probably "our finest writer of the English sentence".
--Marshal Zeringue