When I went to see V.S. Naipaul in hospital last week he was feeling marginally better. His wife Nadira had arranged for a violinist to play some Mozart to him, helping him relax. She did not allow too many visitors. This was not the first time he had been in hospital. His health had been deteriorating for the past 12 months and the family had been receiving — as always — a flurry of invitations from literary festivals and heads of state. All had to be declined. In his hospital room we discussed his coming 86th birthday and I suggested that we celebrate with champagne at the Ritz. He smiled and proposed we go to ‘the other place’. He had a better time at the Lanesborough and preferred to head there instead. We both knew that his time with us was limited: perhaps weeks, or months if we were lucky.