I had a Friday Favorite post ready to go, but I’ve decided to instead post an open letter to V.S. Naipaul regarding his recent assertion that no female writer is his equal.
Dear Mr. Naipaul,
Let me first say that I enjoy your writing. I’ve read several works and found each quite moving. You are certainly deserving of the Nobel prize in literature and other awards you’ve won, but it seems this recognition has led to arrogance instead of literary statesmanship. Arrogance is a particular damaging vice; it takes those who have previously displayed intelligence and shows that they are instead quite stupid.
And that is what your recent comments about women writers has done. You have made yourself a fool.
Your argument relies on two supports, that women writers display “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world” and “inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.”
Allow me to respond to these points in order. Much has been said about sentimentality, and it is often considered a weakness in writing, but I disagree. I will concede that too much sentimentality can be detrimental to a work, but so can complete denial of sentiment. Someone who doesn’t feel, who isn’t emotional moved by people and places, isn’t fit to be an author. Maybe he or she would be the perfect journalist, just reporting the facts, but that person is not fit to be novelist or poet. I guess this leaves the question of whether women are more likely to be too sentimental in their writing. I’ve read enough to know that some are too sentimental and some aren’t. Some men are too sentimental, too. Assuming that all women are too sentimental implies that women lack rational thinking processes. This assumption is terribly misguided and shows that you are the one who has a “narrow view of the world.”
Regarding your “master of the house” argument, let me remind you that you are often classified as a “postcolonial” writer. You write from a perspective and about issues pertaining to a culture that is oppressed. How is this different than women writing about oppression by patriarchy? The oppressed always will and always should write about their oppression. It is part of the process by which they are empowered. You, of all people, should understand this process. I hope that you realize this and, instead of continuing their oppression, join their struggle.
By the way, even though women often write about their struggle against our male-dominated society, that isn’t all they write about. If you actually read them, you would know that.
If this letter finds you, I hope it finds you well, and I hope that you reconsider your previous statements. You, sir, have much to learn from women.