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Khushwant Singh's 'puritanical' view on gay sex revealed

world Updated: Aug 18, 2012 00:03 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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Author Khushwant Singh, famous for his no-holds-barred writings on sex, took an exceptionally "puritanical" stand over homosexuality in a stormy international gathering of writers in Edinburgh 50 years ago, says the man who organised the event.

Singh was among 70 authors to attend the first International Writers Conference in 1962. On the third day, said John Calder, a legendary publisher, Singh surprised many in the audience of 2,300 by claiming homosexuals were incapable of love. "He took a rather puritanical view," Calder told HT on Friday at an event organised to mark the occasion.

Having described the relationship between love and the desire to resolve the "inner solitude", he went on to declare that love could really only exist between heterosexual couples of the same approximate age. "I feel that the sort of love I am talking of is denied to the homosexual," Singh added.

Gay Dutch writer Gerard Reve told the audience: "As you have just heard from one of the speakers, I cannot experience real love. I think I will have to cope with it - I can only say, God forgive people who can dare to say such stupid things."

According to Calder, Singh's comments led to "dramatic clashes" with the gay British author and wartime code-breaker Angus Wilson.

The celebrated American writer Mary McCarthy, in her account to the political theorist Hannah Arendt, said Singh compared homosexuals to hermaphrodites, who, he said "were incapable of orgasm." The chair of the session, the bisexual British poet Stephen Spender, "murmured that he should have thought they could have two (orgasms)."

As to the reason for Singh's view, Calder writes in the book, "What no one knew was that Singh had a son at Oxford, who was gay, and the father was unhappy about it."