The Mekong Review aims to be for Southeast Asia what he said The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books had been since 9/11: ‘brave, trenchant critics of their respective governments.’ It’s a long shot on many levels, not least because it covers a region where English literacy is patchy, postal systems are unreliable and newspapers that are not controlled by governments tend to struggle against censorship and chronic financial constraints. Editor in chief Minh Bui Jones moonlights as a deliveryman when he visits the region.
Now that he has died, the preparation feels insufficient: the uneasiness remains. I suspect you feel it as well: how to speak about a writer whose work has been meaningful—–in my case, profoundly so; I could not imagine my life without it—–as well as a source of frustration or real pain. I have admired Naipaul as much as I have found him difficult to admire, a murky admixture that I find difficult to explain or clarify, and which I find with no other writer, to anything like the same degree.