The Dim-Post

February 16, 2015

Another excerpt

Filed under: books — danylmc @ 6:28 pm

From Sir Vidia’s Shadow, Paul Theroux’s book about his friendship with V S Naipaul:

There was a story I never asked Vidia to verify – didn’t dare ask, because I wanted it to be true. If it was not true, it ought to have been.

Ved Mehta is a distinguished Indian writer. Vidia knew of him. Speaking of The New Yorker once, how under the editorship of William Shawn he could not interest the magazine in his writing, Vidia said, “Of course, they already have a tame Indian.”

Ved Mehta is also famously blind. A certain New Yorker doubted his blindness. Seeing Mehta at a New York party, speaking to a group of attentive people, holding court, the man decided to test it. He had always been skeptical that Mehta was totally blind, since in his writing he minutely described people’s faces and wrote about the nuances of color and texture with elaborate subtlety, making precise distinctions.

The man crept over to where Mehta was sitting, and as the writer continued to speak, the doubting man began making faces at him. He leaned over and waved his hands at Ved Mehta’s eyes. He thumbed his nose at Ved Mehta. He wagged his fingers in Ved Mehta’s face.

Still, Mehta went on speaking, calmly and in perfectly enunciated sentences, never faltering in his expansive monologue.

The man made a last attempt: he put his own face a foot away and stuck his tongue out. But Mehta spoke without pause, as if the man did not exist.

Realizing how wrong he had been, the man felt uncomfortable and wanted to go home. Leaving the party, he said to the hostess, “I had always thought Ved Mehta was faking his blindness, or at least exaggerating. I am now convinced that Ved Mehta is blind.”

“That’s not Ved Mehta,” the hostess said. “It’s V.S. Naipaul.”


  1. Very funny. I heard V.S. Naipaul address an English Literature lecture class of a couple of hundred English majors. They got a bit restve, well the stupid ones did, and he summarily ejected them like an effective schoolmaster. Very interesting. I had read “Mystic Masseur” and some others but his masterpiece, and it is, is “A House for Mr Biswas.”

    Comment by Rick Bryant — February 16, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

  2. I just bought ‘Biswas’ today. Reading it next.

    Comment by danylmc — February 16, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

  3. “A certain New Yorker”

    All apocryphal stories feature “a certain” stereotype.

    Not that this isn’t a marvellous story, you understand. But when I hear “a certain x” I know that on the contrary, it’s very uncertain indeed.

    Comment by Stephen J — February 17, 2015 @ 12:47 am

  4. All apocryphal stories feature “a certain” stereotype.
    It’s a Jesus thing. Toss in a “certain”, as in “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him” and your anecdote has the tone of a parable.

    Comment by Joe W — February 17, 2015 @ 7:37 am

  5. ‘Biswas’ is on my list of ‘Modern Classics I Need to Get Around to Reading’ [I think Philip Matthews patented the concept of this list recently].

    Naipul pops up in many anecdotes, and has become worthy of an apocryphal stereotype of his own.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — February 17, 2015 @ 8:26 am

  6. The “New Yorker” sounds a bit like Larry David’s character in Curb 🙂

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — February 18, 2015 @ 12:35 pm

  7. It seems (and also doesn’t seem) like something that would happen to the Mullah Nasuriddin

    Comment by Lyndon — February 18, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

  8. this stupid crafter of false episodes had better chosen to clean toilets than writing. Why for cloase thirty years Mr Thorax had to walk around Sir Vidia, like an old beggar, and finally brawl like a jilted lover. Ha-ha, I pity this sadist Paul Thorax, but this is what he deserves as man.

    Comment by freethoughts — August 1, 2015 @ 10:03 pm

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