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Naipaul buries the hatchet with a quiet handshake

Hasan Suroor



V.S. Naipaul

LONDON: It was one the most gossiped and written about literary feuds of recent times but on Sunday V.S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux finally put an end to it with polite apologies and a gentle handshake when they bumped into each other at the Hay Festival in Wales though Sir Vidia's wife, Nadira, wasn't sure if the good old days of boozy lunches would ever return.

“You never know. It's a strange world,” she said.

Crediting Mr. Theroux with making the first move, Lady Naipaul said: “Paul approached him and said he missed him. It was very gracious and wonderful of him.”

Cordiale entente

Other witnesses to the famous literary cordiale entente said Mr. Theroux was encouraged by novelist Ian McEwan to do so telling him: “Life's too short. Say hello.”



Paul Theroux

Mr. Theroux then went up to the Nobel Laureate to whom he had not spoken for more than a decade and, offering his hand, said: “I'm sorry. I missed you.”

Sir Vidia, who on a previous encounter at the same festival, had refused to acknowledge Mr. Theroux, reciprocated warmly.

“I missed you too,” he said.

The pair, both now in their seventies, fell out 15 years ago after a long and close friendship which began in 1960s when they met in Kampala as young men. Sir Vidia (plain Mr. Naipaul at the time), who had already established a reputation as a writer with the success of A House for Mr. Biswas, took Mr. Theroux, a struggling American travel writer, under his wings and helped launch his literary career in Britain.

However, the relationship soured as Mr. Theroux tried to come out of his mentor's shadow and it worsened after Sir Vidia's decision to marry Nadira soon after the death of his first wife Pat. The final break, according to Mr. Theroux, came when he discovered that several books he had presented to Sir Vidia and Pat with personal inscription had been sold. When he protested, Lady Naipaul is alleged to have told him to “keep off the grass.”

In 1998, Mr Theroux wrote a book Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents denouncing Sir Vidia and Lady Naipaul and recalling how Sir Vidia refused to speak to him, telling him to ‘take it on the chin and move on.”

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