As dead as Naipaul’s fiction: Nobel laureates cross swordsJune 3rd, 2008 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS
London, June 3 (IANS) Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul has attracted many controversies and enthusiastically engaged himself in many literary duels, but the latest has another Nobel winner targeting him - in rhyme. The attack comes from Derek Walcott, based in St Lucia in the West Indies, who is often acclaimed as the greatest living English-language poet.
His new poem, “The Mongoose”, is a “fast-paced, savagely humorous demolition of Naipaul’s work and personality”, reported the Guardian.
At the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica late last month, the poet read a selection of works from his forthcoming book “White Egrets”.
Ending the hour-long session, he presented the poem after telling the audience: “I think you’ll recognise Mr Naipaul … I’m going to be nasty”.
The Guardian report carried an excerpt from the poem:
“I have been bitten, I must avoid infection
Or else I’ll be as dead as Naipaul’s fiction
Read his last novels, you’ll see just what I mean
A lethargy, approaching the obscene
The model is more ho-hum than Dickens
The essays have more bite
They scatter chickens like critics, but each stabbing phrase is poison
Since he has made that snaring style a prison
The plots are forced, the prose sedate and silly”
Walcott then goes on to attack Trinidadian-born Naipaul’s alleged rejection of his Caribbean heritage in order to win acceptance from the British literary establishment.
The poem’s title refers to the animal that was brought to the Caribbean from British India and thus alludes to Naipaul’s background: he is descended from Indian indentured labourers who moved to Trinidad in the 19th century.
Walcott’s poem compares the novelist, who has described fellow Trinidadians as ‘monkeys’, to this creature: “the mongoose takes its orders from the Raj”.
“The Mongoose” is “the most electrifying poem that I’ve ever heard read out anywhere in the world. I remember the whole audience just suddenly leaning forward with a new kind of attention,” British poet Jackie Kay, who also read his works at the festival, was quoted as saying.
While the poem was widely debated in the Caribbean press, the two stalwarts have refused to comment on it so far.
But Naipaul’s official biographer Patrick French said the legendary author was expected to wait for the right moment to strike back.
“Knowing Naipaul, he’ll say nothing and then at some point he will lash out. I remember him saying to me once: ‘I settle all my accounts, I settle all my accounts.’ He gets even in his own way, even if he has to bide his time,” French was quoted as saying.
- Derek Walcott slams VS Naipaul in verse - Jun 02, 2008
- No woman writer as good as me: V.S. Naipaul - Jun 02, 2011
- VS Naipaul pulls out of international writers' conference over Islam row - Nov 25, 2010
- Shiva Naipaul in longlist for Lost Booker Prize - Feb 01, 2010
- An unusual Spanish literary award ceremony - Apr 24, 2012
- India-Bangladesh project to dramatise Tagore's prose, poems - Apr 08, 2011
- Poet-TV persona Pritish Nandy experiments with 140-character poetry (With Image) - Jul 18, 2012
- Diplomat delights with poetry of promise (IANS Book Review) - Nov 07, 2011
- A Punjabi politician's ode to Tagore - Nov 15, 2011
- Revered but not read, is Tagore reserve of the purist? - May 10, 2011
- Give poets their privacy: Arvind Mehrotra - May 27, 2009
- Odes to turbulent times, from India's 'bhasa' poets - May 22, 2012
- Kurup, new young poets bring Malayalam poetry to centre-stage - Oct 02, 2010
- Pakistani American poet who helped Indian gays migrate - Jul 26, 2011
- Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poems translated into German - May 27, 2012
Tags: british india, calabash literary festival, caribbean heritage, controversies, derek walcott, duels, egrets, forthcoming book, indentured labourers, lethargy, literary establishment, long session, mongoose, nobel laureate, nobel laureates, nobel winner, raj, trinidadians, v s naipaul, west indies