How incredibly ugly of Nadira Naipaul!
Now I am not in the habit of judging a woman’s character by attributes associated with the man she chooses to cavort with. But, in this particular instance, I am less than suprised at Nadira Naipaul’s nasty piece and the ugly can of worms that she has conveniently unleashed so long after the trip ended. Maybe her choice of Nobel Laureate husband does tell us something about her own character, after all.
This post is not about Nadira Naipaul’s husband, however, so much as it is about the alleged interview she had with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in which the latter is supposed to have said all manner of unsavory and apparently unfashionable things about Mandela and one or two directed at Archbishop Tutu as well.
For those people who have been living under a rock for the last few days, I am refering to Nadira Naipaul – married to the infamous but celebrated novelist, VS Naipaul (both talented and despicable, sort of like Ezra Pound, Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, etc), and the piece she published as an interview with Winnie Madikizela Mandela.
In the much cited article/interview, Naipaul claims that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said Mandela has sold out Black people, that his daughters find it hard to reach their father without going through much read tape, expressed resentment about Mandela’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize shared with FW de Klerk, the continuing inequity of post-apartheid South Africa, the farce that was the TRC in many respects, etc.
Several things are immediately irritating to me when I read this interview. First, it is reading The London Evening Standard at all. Second, the way in which this article is written, long before Winnie appears, but also the specific representations that Naipaul chooses for Winnie Mandela: the Winnie who is both a monster general queen figure and unsure woman who needs Naipaul’s husband’s approval. Naipaul’s own overblown sense of hers and her husband’s importance at being kept waiting – not in a pubic place but someone’s home to which it is not clear that they were really invited.
Third, so what if Winnie said all of these things? None of these things attributed to her – save for the one about her daughters’ access to their father – has not been said a million times over by many Black people in South Africa, including staunch comrades. Why does this mattr to Naipaul, the journalist? Why does Winnie saying them – and millions of Black South Africans agreeing with her – mean that this soils Mandela? Because this is not the Mandela of mainstream white South Africa and Britain? These views have existed for more than a decade simultaneously: the revolutionary Mandela next to the traitor Mandela next to the benign Mandela much beloved of white SA. The fact that this badly written Naipaul piece is an issue at all just serves to show how little general Black sentiment is aired in public South African culture, even though several prominent figures have expressed the same sentiments in the media more than once.
Fourth, Winnie Madikizela Mandela denies that there was ever an interview. What are we to make of this? The Naipauls were in her house, but there was no interview. So, if we believe there was no interview, we have several places to go.
Either Madikizela-Mandela said what was attributed to her as she sat with these two conservatives in her house, but did so in a conversation that was not an interview OR she said nothing of the sort and Naipaul’s ‘interview’ is fiction. It cannot be complete fiction, because journo Naipaul talked to somebody who probably said all of this. That person would not have been hard to find; it need not have been WMM. The sentiment is that widely held.
But what if WMM did in fact say all these things off the record? So what? Is she not allowed to express an opinion in her house without someone making an ugly spectacle of her, her life, her house and her comments for self-serving reasons nearly a year after the conversation could have taken place?
I felt sick to my stomach when I heard the Naipauls were in Johannesburg. I remember saying to a friend, ‘what horrible ugliness will come out of this visit’ even before that ridiculous story about their pretend hijacking. And more than nine months later, there is something of an answer in the non-story.
Maybe the Naipaul’s should go back to relegating South Africa to the marginal characters of novelist Naipaul’s books.