The prospect of meeting V.S. Naipaul fills me with a strange combination of excitement and trepidation. The author has written 20 mesmerising books of fiction and non-fiction, but is also notoriously difficult, famed for once reportedly dressing down Iris Murdoch while dining with Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street, for once greeting George Lucas with the remark “I don’t know Star Wars, I am not interested in films”, and for once also describing interviewers as monkeys.
And initially it seems that the Nobel Prize-winning writer, who, perhaps as a result of a lifetime’s concern with the theme of displacement and exile, has based himself in a most obscure cottage in Wiltshire, will live up to it. I’m warned by his people that he’ll walk out if I mention Patrick French’s recent authorised biography, and Naipaul’s formidable 57-year-old wife, Nadira, tells me on arrival that if I “don’t stimulate his mind, it will be over quite soon”.
It’s a surprise and a relief therefore that when he finally appears in his living room, being guided to his favourite armchair by his wife (“Vidia, sit properly, darling; you’re slouching”), he comes across as a rather sweet and genial 78-year-old who is mainly concerned with talking about… his cat…
Read atThe Times