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It is mainly his private relationships with these two women which led so many people to regard Vidia as a misogynist. This is complete nonsense. He had many close women friends whom he treated in the same way as he treated men. True, he made some disparaging generalisations about women authors, but that was in his cantankerous old age — and hardly constitutes misogyny. Vidia definitely liked women.

Indeed, Vidia was much nearer to being a misanthrope. He was certainly a pessimist and a realist. The perfectibility of humankind did not figure in his thinking. No doubt his childhood in Trinidad, and his Hindu background, influenced his views. But his warnings about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism and his dismay at the failures of post-colonial Africa were based on his own extensive experiences as a traveller and on his powers of clear-sighted observation. His judgments may sometimes have been too sweeping, but it’s surely difficult to deny that there is truth in what he said. Yet people do deny it.

Of course Vidia had flaws. He could be arrogant and conceited (due perhaps to feelings of self-doubt), irascible and intolerant. In his later years he occasionally flung around absurd statements about the decline of everything. But he had always enjoyed shocking the bien pensants and puncturing prevailing orthodoxies. Virtue-signalling was not his thing — he could be more accurately described as a vice-signaller.

In some areas he was a snob — in the area of wine, for example. Indeed, his attitude to wine momentarily clouded our friendship, though he may not have been aware of this. We had invited Vidia and his glamorous, clever new wife Nadira for dinner and I was very anxious to get a good wine. Not being an expert, I sought advice and finally plumped for an Australian shiraz which I was assured was superb. The fact that it cost under £50 a bottle was a factor.

When we sat down for dinner Vidia, who had been in a very jolly mood, picked up one of the bottles. “What are you giving us?” He looked at the label and his face fell. Then he cast an imploring glance at Nadira, sitting at the other end of the table, as though to say, “Let’s leave as soon as we decently can.” Which they did. I was very upset.

In later years I saw Vidia much less frequently, but when we did meet I was always elated. The wine incident did not in the least alter my view as to his loveability.
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