Remembering Naipaul

Tariq Ali at the LRB:

Naipaul and C.L.R. James were educated at the same colonial school. The high quality of teaching in classics and English literature left its mark on both men. Both of them came to England. There the similarity ends. James moved to Marxism and became a great historian in that tradition. Naipaul put politics on the back-burner, joined the lesser ranks of vassalage (the BBC) and cultivated a cultural conservatism that later became his hallmark both politically and socially. The classical heritage of the European bourgeoisie had completely bewitched him. He saw it as the dominant pillar of Western civilisation and this led him to underplay, ignore and sometimes to justify its barbaric sides both at home and abroad.

In later years, James (in private conversation) would refer to Naipaul as someone who is often needed in an imperialist country trying to create a post-colonial culture so as to say things about native peoples that are no longer acceptable in polite society. Naipaul was never, by any stretch of the imagination, a card-carrying Tory. He lived his life through a circle of friends that he had carefully selected. Most, if not all, were figures on the right.

more here.