The novelist Sir V S Naipaul drew criticism from the gay literary community yesterday after he attacked two pillars of 20th-century literature and economics as homosexual "exploiters".
Sir Vidia, whose works include In A Free State, which won the 1971 Booker Prize, claimed that the author E M Forster and the economist John Maynard Keynes had used their influential positions to procure gay sex. The remarks, in an interview with a literary magazine, were described by gay critics as "ludicrous".
The Trinidad-born author told the augustLiterary Review that Forster, who wrote A Passage to India, had visited the Raj in 1921 solely to satisfy his desire for "garden boys".
Keynes, the father of macro-economics, who was – unlike Forster – openly homosexual during his lifetime, was accused of exploiting his post at Cambridge University for sex with students.
Asked about the literary value of A Passage To India, Sir Vidia said: "Forster, of course, has his own purposes in India. He is a homosexual and he has his time in India, exploiting poor people.
"Keynes didn't exploit poor people, he exploited people in the university; he sodomised them and they were too frightened to do anything about it."
Of the novelist, whose homosexual apologia, Maurice, was published after his death, Sir Vidia added: "Forster belonged to that kind of nastiness really. I know it might be liberally wonderful now to say it's OK, but I think it's awful.
"He was somebody who didn't know Indian people. He just knew the [royal] court and a few middle-class Indians and the garden boys whom he wished to seduce."
Sir Vidia, 69, who lives in Wiltshire, has made no secret of his trenchant views. Last summer, he accused the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of destroying high culture by championing an "aggressively plebeian culture".
His latest remarks were attacked by gay writers for "demonising" homosexuality. Peter Burton, literary editor of the Gay Times, said: "These are ludicrous remarks. They fail to take into account the prevailing attitudes to homosexuality at the beginning of the last century.
"There was a long homosexual tradition of patronage between older, influential men and younger men. Often it was the younger men who benefited ... Naipaul is demonising these gay men."
The wrath of Sir Vidia was not confined to homosexuality. He described James Joyce, the author of Ulysses, as incomprehensible because of his blindness.Reuse content