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She minded just as much as his loyal English wife, Pat, who, until her death, he also callously treated as a slavish figure expected to absorb his verbal and physical abuse, as well as occasional ‘confessions’ about his mistress Margaret, while dutifully continuing to read his manuscripts and take care of all his needs.
At that time his long-suffering wife Pat was dying in England. ‘As for Paul Theroux, when you are dumped you say all sorts of things. As Naipaul’s spouse, Nadira has the hardest, loneliest job imaginable, and I feel with her recent outburst she may be showing the effects of this hardship. He got his millions, a knighthood and the Nobel Prize, but the karmic twist is that no one gives a toss about his books.’ Such a considerate, caring place, the world of books.Crucially, French quotes Naipaul as blithely saying: ‘She didn’t mind at all.She thought of it in terms of my passion for her.’ But now we know Margaret did mind.Bigoted, arrogant, vicious, racist, a woman-beating misogynist and sado-masochist — the Nobel laureate Sir VS Naipaul has not turned a hair since this uniquely ugly list of traits was laid bare about him some months ago.But then, again, it was he who allowed the descriptions of himself to be detailed by his authorised biographer Patrick French.In the book, The World Is What It Is, the writer (knighted by the Queen in 1990 and awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001) details ‘their’ taste for sado-masochism.
Cursed by lifelong doubts about his own sexual inadequacy, he finds that he is able with Margaret — an Anglo-Argentinian who left her husband and two children for him — to indulge in abusive practices that had always fascinated him.
Doubtless, loyal followers will absorb every word of the new book on Africa, their admiration for the Trinidad-born Indian (who claims he is a Brahmin, the lofty Hindu caste) undimmed by what they know about his private life. Not according to the explosive last line of a letter that has just been published in the celebrated New York Review of Books.
The letter was written by Naipaul’s cast-off mistress of 24 years, Margaret Murray, in response to a review of French’s biography.
They indulged in anal sex, or as it was known between them, ‘visiting the very special place of love’.
Her submissive manner was undoubtedly intensified by his deliberate practice of leaving many of her letters unopened.
‘I mainly saw his sadness, his tantrums, his envy, his meanness, his greed and his uncontrollable anger.’ From Hawaii, where he lives, Theroux tells me: ‘Of course Margaret minded the abuse. Naipaul’s version of this 24-year affair is self-serving, inaccurate and deeply unfair to Margaret. Just hearing how she travelled all over the world with Naipaul would be a great narrative — he dictated his Congo diary to her.