Okri, Naipaul and Arundhati bushwhacked by Moscow-based reviewer
December 12, 2005 15 Comments
I have spent the last day trawling through my favorite new e-zine, the eXile, which is published in Moscow. Its book reviewer, John Dolan, is particularly adept at delivering kidney-punch reviews of the great and good.
This is Dolan on Aidan Hartley’s The Zanzibar Chest.
‘The first thing you notice about Aidan Hartley’s memoir, The Zanzibar Chest, is the skill with which Hartley moves from stories of his ancestors’ colonial exploits to episodes in his own pinball trajectory through contemporary African war zones. It’s not easy to switch centuries and keep the reader with you, and Hartley does it well.
The second thing you notice is that Hartley barely bothers to disguise his Tory nostalgia for Britain’s Imperial past. It irks him that he can only observe and describe Africa’s many wars, when his fathers for generations past played such an enthusiastic role in starting, stoking and stifling the conflicts of their eras.’ more here.
Dolan then sets his sights on Ben Okri, a writer so confusing that everyone I have ever met who has read him vows he is deep and heavy and will not be drawn on further discussion. I suspect that like me, most of them have not read Okri after having tried to and concluded that you need to be on mescaline to get past the first chapter. Dolan, displaying a refreshing rage and bitterness for God knows what heaping of disappointments, does not shrink from letting Okri have it from both barrels.
Then, in a bid to be generous for once, Dolan takes on Naipaul who he understands better than almost anyone with whom I have discussed the bullied, snotty, little Trini who made good by hating everyone. Let me just say that like Dolan, I really dig Naipaul even while I see just how screwed up he is.
Says Dolan, ‘he hated the black boys, big and muscular, who beat him up, who scared him. It’s the truth; let’s face it. He has been called a racist, and he is one…’
‘They, the new black rulers, didn’t want any little Indians hanging around the Presidential Palace. Naipaul — who must truly have been a nasty boy, a sneaking eavesdropper and swot, understood one thing well: though eddies of decency and culture were developing in the West Indies, none of them were in the market for a little Hindu boy possessed by a great, corrosive intellect.’
‘Other Windies could try for the patronage of the Left, which had begun to cultivate “voices of color” — but they meant righteous, Ciceronian outrage from black, not Brahmin-beige, people. And when they said “new voices,” they were not talking about a snotty brown boy’s mocking, BBC-copying voice.’
Read the entire vicious-while-being-complimentary review here.
Our merry literary assassin, writing with the freedom of a man who seems to feels he has nothing to lose, which in my experience always makes for the most interesting outbursts, turns his tender attentions to Arundhati Roy. Arundhati, she of the breathless denunciations of American imperialism and capitalism, the patron saint of latte loving, anti-globalisers everywhere. More here.