Friday, August 31, 2007

Principles are higher than reality

I've never read VS Naipaul, but I think I'll have to.

His nonfiction does the same walking-around trick to devastating effect. Notably in Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, published in 1981, simply by letting people speak, he exposed the delusions, anger and fanaticism that would lead, 20 years later, to 9/11. That book was a phenomenally prescient document, but it seemed to isolate Naipaul. He realised the extent of this isolation when, after publication, he was invited to Harvard.

“They wanted to have a discussion with me – that’s what they said. They wanted no such thing. They wanted the fellows of their institute to all say their piece of rage and criticism. It was such a shocking occasion. I think that’s what happens when people believe their principles are higher than reality... Now, if someone says they are from Harvard, I feel they are condemning themselves out of their own mouth.”

That episode is important, not becuase it is about Islam, but for what it says about the Academy and its attitude to truth.

Naipaul is obviously another case of a colonial going 'home' to save the Mother Country from itself.

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