BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment: Arts
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
VS Naipaul attacks Forster
A Passage to India
A Passage to India was turned into a film in 1984
Trinidadian novelist Sir VS Naipaul has strongly criticised writer EM Forster in an interview with the Literary Review.

Naipaul accuses Forster of being a sexual predator who visited the Raj in the 1920s merely to procure "garden boys".

These are ludicrous remarks

Peter Burton, Gay Times
He also criticises Forster's novels, describing Passage to India as "a lying mystery" having "only one real scene".

The interview with Farrukh Dhondy precedes the decision by publishers Picador to reprint all of Naipaul's novels, as well as a new novel, Half a Life.


Asked by Dhondy about the literary value of A Passage to India, he said: "People like EM Forster make a pretence of making poetry of the three religions. It's false. It's a pretence. It's utter rubbish."

"It has only one real scene, and that's the foolish little tea party at the beginning. I don't think there is another real scene," Sir Vidia said of the book.

Sir Vidia then went on to attack Forster, who died in 1970, for his homosexuality and lack of understanding of Indian culture: "Forster of course has his own purposes in India. He is a homosexual and he has his time in India."

"He just knew the court and a few middle-class Indians and a few garden boys whom he wished to seduce," Sir Vidia concluded.


The interview, printed in the August 2001 issue of Literary Review, has angered gay critics.

Joyce was going blind and I can't understand the work of a blind writer

VS Naipaul
Peter Burton, literary editor of the Gay Times, told the Independent newspaper: "These are ludicrous remarks. They fail to take into account the prevailing attitudes to homosexuality at the beginning of the last century.

"There was a long homosexual tradition of patronage between older, influential men and younger men. Often it was the younger men who benefited... Naipaul is demonising these gay men."

Sir Vidia also accused economist John Maynard Keynes of exploiting his position at Cambridge University for sex with students, and described Ulysses author James Joyce as incomprehensible.


Asked about Ulysses, Sir Vidia replied: "I can't read it. Joyce was going blind and I can't understand the work of a blind writer."

Born in Trinidad in 1932, Sir Vidia came to England on a scholarship from Queen's Royal College in 1950. He spent four years at University College, Oxford, where he read English.

Despite the controversy around his work, he is one of the most successful of the generation of writers who left the Caribbean in 1950s.

As well as the Booker Prize, he was the first winner of the David Cohen Literature Award, and he was knighted for services to literature.

See also:

18 Jan 01 | Entertainment
DR Congo's literary past
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Arts stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Arts stories