I won't make an effort to read Rushdie's novel, says Naipaul

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The distinguished author V S Naipaul has dismissed writers of Indian ancestry such as Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, saying yesterday that he had no time to read them.

Sir Vidia, who regularly provokes controversy with his politically incorrect views on the Third World, said he had time to study French authors and for his own writing. But asked whether he would read the latest Rushdie novel, Fury, he told an audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival: "It might one day come to me. I will not pursue it."

In an interview that reinforced his image as a man who looks harshly on India, the country of his parents, and Trinidad, where he was born, Sir Vidia was scathing about what he called "colonial writers" who pretended to be revolutionaries while cosying up to their governments.

Latin American writers, for example, did not offer profound analyses of their countries. He said: "Things that might undermine their system and really bring about a regeneration, they avoid like the plague. They do what is expected of them."

Britain also had its share of "official" writers ­ people who he described as pretending to be unconventional and people who spoke in provincial accents. But he refused to name the intended targets of his jibe.

Sir Vidia, whose work includes A Bend in the River, said he was grateful he was now fêted in India, a country that had resisted his works for 30 years. He said he was pleased literacy was improving in his ancestral land but said there was no tradition of reading there.

Sir Vidia also attacked the dumbing-down of British culture. "The idea of a high culture has really gone for six. It doesn't exist. It's considered wrong," he said.

He said that Britain was considerably more tolerant than when he had arrived here in the 1950s, but that tolerance had contributed to the diminution of intellectual life. "The level of interest, the level of thought, the intellectual current in the country, the level of debate and concern, I think that has changed. When things change there is gain and a little bit of loss."