Naipaul dismisses 'sentimental' women authors

2nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Nobel-winning writer V.S. Naipaul faced criticism Thursday for saying he does not regard any female authors as his equal, even famed novelist Jane Austen, because they are "sentimental".

The Trinidad-born Naipaul, who has been no stranger to controversy in the past, said the work of female writers was inferior partly because they are not the "complete master of a house".

"Women writers are different, they are quite different. I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think (it is) unequal to me," he told the London Evening Standard newspaper.

The 78-year-old -- who won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature for works such as his semi-autobiographical novel "A House for Mr Biswas" -- said this was due to women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world".

He added: "And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too."

"My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold it was all this feminine tosh. I don't mean this in any unkind way," he added.

Asked if he considered any women writers his equal, he replied: "I don't think so."

Naipaul had especially harsh words for the 19th century writer Austen, whose much-loved works include "Pride and Prejudice".

He said he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world."

His remarks drew scorn from the former publisher he mentioned, award-winning British author Diana Athill, who said Naipaul appeared to be "losing his grip".

"He always tended toward irritability, and it seems he is losing his grip. It is ridiculous," she told the Evening Standard.

"Taking myself out of it, you only have to think of authors like George Eliot, or Jane Austen -- you cannot take it seriously."

She added: "He has been asked what he genuinely feels and what he feels seems to me to be foolishness."

British-based Naipaul has stirred controversy in the past, describing post-colonial countries as "half-made societies" and arguing that Islam both enslaved and attempted to wipe out other cultures.

Naipaul also famously fell out with US travel writer Paul Theroux but the pair reportedly made up this week at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival in Wales.

© 2011 AFP

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