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What writing can do that nothing else can: Naipaul

Editor's Note: Firstpost editors Sandip Roy and Lakshmi Chaudhry report on the ultimate celebrity conference. A five star line up of authors, intellectuals, biz tycoons, actors, politicians and more have gathered at the Grand Hyatt in Goa as part of Thinkfest. Co-organised by Tehelka and Newsweek, this haute version of TED brings together an eclectic and intriguing range of A-list names, from Nobel peace prize winning Leymah Gbowee to Omar Abdullah to author Siddharth Muherjee to Arvind Kejriwal. Here are their reports on some of the most interesting conversations.

If there is a grand old man of letters at the Goa Thinkfest it's undoubtedly Sir Vidia. VS Naipaul has a bit of a reputation as both brilliant and irascible. But when he appeared on stage, chatting with Tarun Tejpal, he was in a kindly grandfather mode, happily playing a twinkling indulgent Yoda to Tejpal's Hans Solo.

Naipaul was in an expansive mood talking about why he writes ("to keep going"), the fear that he would run out of stories and lose his voice, his India books, switching to non-fiction (he liked the idea of travel), his envy of movies as a way of telling stories and his disenchantment with university education.

Sir VS Naipaul in this file photo. Reuters.

And of course, his India books which earned him both huge acclaim and the undying hatred of many Indians. For him, those books are stages in the life of a writer, as opposed to books about stages in the life of a country. The man who once saw an area of darkness ended up seeing the promise and excitement of a million mutinies. And he saw it, said Tejpal, before most Indians had any idea about what was coming down the pike. Naipaul says he sensed change around the corner because he saw the children of his friends' servants getting educated.

For those who wondered what Naipaul thought about all the talk about all the stories of the book dying a slow death, he was unperturbed. And even had a Dickensian joke to share.

But being Naipaul, a little bit of controversy can never be far behind. 140 characters behind, actually. He told the packed audience that when he started writing non fiction he realised you couldn't do it by having dinners and lunches with people and expecting a book to come out of that. You need something more, a little more cement to turn it into a book.

Listen to Naipaul talk about the art and craft of writing.

Novelist Hari Kunzru tweeted that out to his followers. Within minutes Salman Rushdie responded with his own tweet jab.

You also have to make them drive you around, tell you what they know and then be rude about them. #naipaul.

No word what Naipaul thought. He was too busy signing books.

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