naipaul pontificates

Did your experience of writing change as you went on? My idea of writing developed as I wrote. I still have no big idea of writing. My only idea is that if you are doing non-fiction it should be truthful. The people about whom you write should themselves be able to see the truth of it. After the book we’ve spoken about, Among the Believers, was published, people wrote from Iran to say I’d missed the point. I had written about driving in Tehran. It’s dangerous and precarious. The car I was in returned from every journey with the scrapings of paint from other cars. And they picked on the same observation when I read extracts to a Harvard audience. They didn’t like that at Harvard at all. Harvard said it was ‘colonial’ to write the truth.

Do you think you met particularly bigoted or silly people at these universities? The Wise Ones?

I don’t think so. I think these universities have passed their peak. The very idea of the university may be finished. In Oxford, for a long time, they were producing divines. Then it took a turn and the University began to produce smart people. The idea of learning came quite late, in the early nineteenth century perhaps, and it went on some way into the twentieth. Now, apart from sciences, there seems to be no purpose to a university education. The Socialists want to send everybody to these places. I feel that these places ought to be wrapped up and people should buy their qualifications at the Post Office.

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