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Fred Khumalo Takes Tea with VS Naipaul – and Naipaul Almost Mugged?

A Bend in the RiverSir Vidia's ShadowThe World is What it IsAlert! The first journalist to scoop an audience with Nobel prize winning author VS Naipaul, who is in the country to do research for a new book (as BOOK SA has been reporting since early this month – click here, here and here) is the Sunday Times‘ Fred Khumalo, who had a cup of tea with Naipaul at The Grace Hotel in Johannesburg last week.

Khumalo produced a quirky piece in which the author interviews him, not the other way around. The same day, meanwhile, Naipaul and his wife were at the centre of a strange incident that involved their vehicle being “forced off the road”, after which they were accosted in a manner that left the author “shaken”. This was also reported in Khumalo’s paper:

Khumalo and NaipaulIt was one of those deliciously ironic moments: a newspaper journalist being interviewed by a Nobel laureate for literature.

VS Naipaul had quietly sneaked into South Africa, and set about interviewing a cross section of locals for his next book, an ambitious tome focusing on African religions and African spirituality.

While Sir Vidia, the appropriate address since his knighthood, has written numerous texts about the continent, both fiction and non-fiction, his search for new material has taken him to Nigeria, Uganda and Gabon.

Friends vehemently tried to dissuade him and his wife Nadira, herself a writer, from coming to South Africa (‘Are you mad? Do you have death wishes? That is the crime capital of the world.’).

Sir Vidia, who was once described by a critic as an eagle who sits high on his perch and watches everything below — and misses nothing, decided he wanted to come to South Africa for this book, which he says will be his last in a successful career spanning more than five decades.

They say water flows because of gravity; people flow because of symbols. And on the continent, attractive symbols lie in the south. South Africa epitomises the continent in all its complexity: a wounded history, multiculturalism, the restlessness and, most importantly, hope.

It was therefore inevitable that Sir Vidia would succumb to gravity and venture south.


*

Nobel literature laureate VS Naipaul and his wife were accosted in Johannesburg yesterday.

The altercation occurred near The Grace Hotel in Rosebank, northern Johannesburg. Naipaul’s wife, Nadira, said they were on their way to the Lion Park, northwest of the city, when a “smart” car forced their chauffeur-driven van off the road.

The couple were accompanied by a friend, Khadija Bradlow, who has been showing them around.

“I really thought we were being hijacked. I thought this is it, it’s happening. They all told us that Johannesburg is a very criminal city and now it’s happening to us,” said Nadira.

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Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    July 20th, 2009 @13:37 #
     
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    Here's some interesting Naipaul news - he's just ditched his agent of 30 years for the ruthless and feared Andrew Wylie. Wonder if he placed the call from SA?

    http://www.observer.com/2009/media/naipaul-dumps-longtime-agent-joins-wylie-empire

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/matthew-bell-the-ios-diary-1752212.html

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    July 20th, 2009 @17:09 #
     
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    A Smart car forced their van off the road?? I would have sat on it.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    July 20th, 2009 @17:21 #
     
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    I think that "smart" is used here in the adjectival sense. "That's a smart car," he said, watching the S-Class Mercedes cruise past.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    July 21st, 2009 @01:15 #
     
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    Hah hah @ Fiona. Those cars are a bit ridiculous.

    I had to stifle a guffaw when I read that Naipaul was "shaken". How Naipaulian. Also, Tea?

    I wonder, a BookSA meetup would probably leave him "shaken".

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  • <a href="http://seanbadal.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sean</a>
    Sean
    July 23rd, 2009 @10:12 #
     
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    Indian hijackers ...outside the Grace???!!! I think they just wanted an autograph (from his wife).

    I recently read Patrick French's book on Naipaul, needless to say VS doesn't come across as a nice man

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    July 23rd, 2009 @10:30 #
     
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    Sean, you should hear what his fellow Trinidadians have to say about him...it would make your ears wilt.

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  • <a href="http://seanbadal.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sean</a>
    Sean
    July 23rd, 2009 @10:40 #
     
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    Yeah, I have. Actually, reading about how he treated his wife, who was dying of cancer, is even more horrendous.
    Still can't figure out how someone who wrote so well could be so nasty....
    (Gosh, I hope he isn't reading this, bang goes my photo-op....

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    July 23rd, 2009 @12:27 #
     
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    For a wonderful, astringent, fair (and therefore even more horrific) portrait of VS, read Diana Athill's Stet, her account of being the editor who "discovered" him. Read http://www.robertfulford.com/Naipaul.html for an utterly brilliant precis of their relationship.

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