Naipaul is the most read Caribbean writer
Stabroek News
December 6, 2001

Dear Editor,

I take issue with the expatriate Guyanese Abu Bakr living in France for his attack on V.S. Naipaul. (SN 01-12-02) [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ].

Abu Bakr's attack is long, amorphous and leads nowhere. It is full of contradictory statements. Example: "Naipaul, a good minor talent, a promising literary caricaturist, finds himself thrust to the centre of the stage..." Then: "As a writer of prose, Naipaul is an elegant and intelligent pen, and as a composer of comedies, he is often original and very funny.."

Abu Bakr talks of Naipaul's readers shrinking in numbers! Actually, Naipaul is the most read Caribbean writer ever. The British Commonwealth reads him avidly and since the exploding of Islamic terrorism this year, his travelogues in the Islamic lands are now in demand all over the world, including the Islamic homelands. His publishers can't keep up with the demand. So Abu Bakr shouldn't worry about Naipaul's royalties.

But it seems that Bakr himself, though criticising Naipaul's prescription, has taken it to heart. He has fled his homeland and like the masseur Ram Sumair who became Ramsay Muir, an Abel Baker becomes an Abu Bakr, exchanging one form of colonial cultural domination for another more backward.

In the last part of his marathon letter, Bakr identifies Naipaul as an East Indian and underlines it by mentioning that fact two or three times and even linking Naipaul with Mr Ravi Dev and ROAR! Naipaul has probably never heard of ROAR! Naipaul has written on Indian themes but so have numerous Black Caribbean writers written on African themes. Some, like Derek Walcott, have stressed their Afro-European ancestry and others like Nicolas Guillen of Cuba wrote his "Mulatto Poems" underlining his Mulatto ancestry. Despite all these writers showing some affiliation to Africanness or Indianness or Colouredness or Europeanness, they are all equally Caribbean and West Indian. Why therefore, single out Naipaul?

The answer is that a lot of what goes as anti-Naipaul criticism is really nothing more than racism masquerading as literary criticism.

I, like hundreds of thousands of others, will continue to read Naipaul with delight.

Yours faithfully

P. Murray