V S Naipaul dropped from Ubud Writers Festival for demanding $20,000 as appearance fee
Both V S Naipaul and Paul Theroux, who are not appearing in this year’s Ubud Festival in Bali, will appear in Jaipur Lit Fest in India and Singapore Writers Festival respectively
For this year’s festival from October 1-5, festival director Janet DeNeefe invited the American writer Paul Theroux, who had expressed interest after eating at her Ubud restaurant Indus. When she rejected his request for a fee for which, she says, “I could have got David Attenborough”, Theroux agreed instead to appear at the Singapore Writers Festival in November.
DeNeefe then invited V.S. Naipaul, the distinguished but difficult 82-year-old Trinidad-born British writer, who recently ended a long feud with Theroux. To her amazement the Wylie Agency accepted, with the promise of first- and business-class travel and a luxurious villa.
The festival program was launched on August 1, headlined by “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet a literary legend of the 20th century”. But this month the Wylie Agency contacted DeNeefe again, demanding a $20,000 fee, and after agonised consultation she decided to let Naipaul go.
As she announced his withdrawal on Friday, “the result of us being unable to accommodate Sir V.S. Naipaul’s 11th-hour requests”, he and Theroux were named as guests of India’s Jaipur Literature Festival in January.
“To be told about a week ago is pretty atrocious,” DeNeefe said. “When we did our sums we realised we would not be able to pay wages post-festival or move premises when we lose our donated space post-festival.
“Our cash sponsorship so far this year is less than $100,000, so we can’t spend 50K of that on him. I actually rejected some Indonesian musicians because we can’t afford them.”
Like DeNeefe, Australian writers’ festival directors resist appearance fees, and writers are