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No woman writer equal to me: Naipul

Nobel laureate V S Naipaul, who is no stranger to controversy, has lashed out at female authors saying there is no woman writer whom he considers his equal - expressing particular ire for the work of Jane Austen.

books Updated: Jun 02, 2011 10:42 IST

Nobel laureate V S Naipaul, who is no stranger to controversy, has lashed out at female authors saying there is no woman writer whom he considers his equal - expressing particular ire for the work of Jane Austen.

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the "greatest living writer of English prose", was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: "I don''t think so."

“Women writers are different, they are quite different. I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

This is due to their "sentimentality, [and] the narrow view of the world," the 78-year-old said, adding "inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing, too."

“My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way,” he added.

Naipaul even singled out Jane Austen for particular criticism, saying he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”.

His latest comments were criticised as showing he was out of touch with the modern world. Alex Clark, a literary journalist, said: “It’s absurd. I suspect VS Naipaul thinks that there isn’t anyone who is his equal. Is he really saying that writers such as Hilary Mantel, A. S. Byatt, Iris Murdoch are sentimental or write feminine tosh?”