Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Walcott's "Mongoose" bites Naipaul

There are lots of ongoing literary feuds, but few of them are as weighty, or as nasty, as the one between Nobel laureates Derek Walcott and V.S. Naipaul. Recently, Walcott has taken the war of words into his poetry. In a poem called "Mongoose," Walcott takes direct aim. Here's a story from the Jamaica Gleaner:

Derek Walcott landed a poetic broadside on Trinidadian novelist V.S. Naipaul as he ended his 'Chatterbox' stint at the 2008 Calabash International Literary Festival on Saturday afternoon at Jake's in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth.
The Nobel laureate for literature followed an onstage interview with Kwame Dawes with poetry from his upcoming collection, White Egrets, but a lot of the sting was in the tail as he closed with 'The Mongoose'.
It was quickly made clear that the beast he was referring to did not run around in literal cane pieces, as Walcott started the long poem with:
"I have been bitten
I must avoid infection
Or else I will be as dead
As Naipaul's fiction."
Walcott said the writer now worked with "a lethargy approaching the obscene" and observed "so the old mongoose still making money is a burnt-out comic", dismissing him as "a rodent in old age".
Read the rest of the story here.

Here is a more in-depth view of the feud from Daniel Trilling at the New Statesman. Read it here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, according to Patrick French's upcoming authorized biography of Naipaul, _The Way It Is_, Naipaul really is a rather astonishingly unpleasant man in many ways.

That said biography was written with Naipaul's participation and sanction, suggests that either Naipaul is feeling "confessional" in his later years, or else that he suffers from what might be called "Howard Stern Syndrome", whereby all is permitted, so long as it feeds and furthers a larger-than-life reputation.

I make no claim to know what's in play here, or to know Naipaul. I only remain amazed that Naipaul has allowed such damning details of his life and behaviour to go public.

If people thought Naipaul the man was problematic before, _The Way It Is_ can't possibly improve perceptions.