Amul Pays Tribute To VS Naipaul's Controversial 'Among the Believers'
Famed author and Nobel laureate VS Naipaul passed away on August 12, leaving behind an oeuvre of literary works rich in its critical retelling of colonial and postcolonial history and the nuance of exile. Born to indentured labourers from India in colonial Trinidad, Naipaul is celebrated for his sparkling, heart-breaking prose and yet widely critiqued for his alleged imperial gaze, support for right-wing politics, misogyny and often conspicuous racism and anti-Islamism that reflected in his works.
Taking a cue from the author’s dynamic persona underlined with controversy, Indian dairy cooperative Amul paid tribute to the author in its classic caricature cartoon commentary.
True to its nature, the Amul caricature is both an homage and an apparent reminder of the author’s alleged dark side.
In the cartoon, Naipaul is seen reading to the Amul girl from a book. The words 'He is among the believers now' is probably a reference to one of his most controversial works.
As fans would know, 'Among the Believers' is one of Naipaul’s most critiqued works for the tough stance it takes on Islam. The book is based on a journey through Asian countries with strong Islamic traditions such as Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia after the Iranian revolution. He critiqued Islam as a religion that has had a ‘calamitous effect’ on the world, much like Imperialism.
He provides an account of Islam, in these countries as well as in India, that is peppered with an vision that has termed colonial by the likes of William Dalrymple and Derek Walcott.
Many literary critics and journalists such as Ahmed Versi of Muslim News slammed Naipaul for his ‘ignorance’. His previous work ‘An area of Darkness’ is part of a trilogy that documents his travels through India.
The book was immediately banned in the country for its extremely pessimist take on India.
Amul cartoons, which are usually spot on with its social commentary, have once again managed to do what Naipaul himself did best – paying homage to Naipaul’s literary genius using his most sold, most criticized work, possibly to remind the audience that there is always a flipside to everything, even genius.