Sunday’s Guardian profiles Naipaul, who has yet another book out.
His latest, a novel, Magic Seeds, is the bleakly comic story of Willie Chandran who responds to the anxiety of his own displacement by trying to find ‘his war’. Chandran also featured in Naipaul’s last novel, Half a Life, in which he migrated from India to England to southern Africa, mostly in search of a sex life. Now he returns to India and joins up with a Maoist revolutionary group, lives in the jungle, wondering all the while what on earth he is up to….
Naipaul says he has always travelled with one question in his head: will this be interesting in 20 years’ time? His inquiry on the rise of Islamic states, Among the Believers, in 1981, has proved, in this respect, particularly prophetic. Most of the world still has not confronted its implications, he believes. ‘The blowing up of the towers: people could deal with it as an act of terror, but the idea of religious war is too frightening for people to manage. The word used is jihad. We like to translate it as holy war, but really it is religious war.’
Naipaul has always been clear about the iniquities of the world. ‘Hate oppression,’ he says, ‘but fear the oppressed.’ The thing he sees in the current terrorism is the exulting in other people’s death. ‘We are told the people who killed the children in Russia were smiling. The liberal voices were ready to explain the reasons for their actions. But this has no good side. It is as bad as it appears.’