Nobel Prize-winning author V S Naipaul has declared that women's writing is "unequal" to his, during an event at the Hay Festival.
The writer, who won the Man Booker in 1971 for In a Free State, said during an interview about his career at the Royal Geographical Society: "Women writers are different, they are quite different. I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."
Naipaul said this was due to their "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world". He added: "And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.
"My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don't mean this in any unkind way."
On Jane Austen, he added that he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world".
When asked if he considered any woman writer his equal, the 78-year-old answered: "I don't think so", the Telegraph reports.
Literary journalist Alex Clark told the newspaper "It's absurd. I suspect V S Naipaul thinks that there isn't anyone who is his equal. Is he really saying that writers such as Hilary Mantel, A S Byatt, Iris Murdoch are sentimental or write feminine tosh?"
Helen Brown, Telegraph literary critic, said: "It certainly would be difficult to find a woman writer whose ego was equal to that of Naipaul. I'm sure his arrogant, attention-seeking views make many male writers cringe too. He should heed the words of George Eliot—a female writer—whose works have had a far more profound impact on world culture than his.
"She wrote: 'Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.' "