From the Atlantic, 2002:
Naipaul’s reputation is checkered and increasingly uneasy. He has been called a reactionary and an Islamophobe; Derek Walcott has accused him, more in sorrow than in anger, of racism; Edward W. Said has accused him, more in anger than in sorrow, of intellectual neo-colonialism. Rather than nervously ignoring these charges, I should like to address them head on, and to say that Naipaul is a political figure—indeed, a profoundly important one.
That leads to the larger and graver political charge: Naipaul is not just a Muslim-basher and a neo-colonialist, he might even be right-wing. His devotees shy away at this point. Ian Buruma is one of the best literary (as well as political) writers around today, and he has written admirably about Naipaul, who, he insists in a palpably defensive way, is not a reactionary. Well, maybe not, though it’s curious how difficult it is to say of a great writer “Yes, he’s a reactionary, and what of it?” even when that is obviously true, for example of Conrad, to whom Naipaul is inevitably and rightly compared. Perhaps Naipaul isn’t a reactionary—but he is certainly no liberal, and herein lies his importance…