Robert Boyers on Naipaul

Robert Boyers


Naipaul need not balance what he says about Africa with comparable complaints on the state of affairs in London. The question [Edward Said is] raising has to do with whether or not he deliberately falsifies his material on the third world so as to pander to the biases of a Western audience. That audience, I would contend, is not disposed to believe that condition in the third world are as awful or as hopeless as thy seem in Naipaul. And they are surely resistant to the idea that people in Africa or in India or Pakistan are victims of their respective cultures. An important dimension of Naipaul's argument is that as long as Indians and Africans continue to think in ways mandated by their own cultural institutions, they will be unable to deal effectively with their problems. This is hardly the sort of thing Western liberals, with their obligatory respect for alien cultures, are prepared to like. How often do we hear serious writers tell us that one culture is not as good as another, that some cultures positively obstruct or even forbid the kinds of intellectual growth we are supposed to admire? Some readers may like to read that the Islamic mind is lazy, but most Western liberals want to believe that one culture is as valid as another and that problems are the consequence of "imperialism." Naipaul can hardly be said to pander to these people. [80]

[Postimperial] [V. S. Naipaul]

Last Modified: 1 March 2002