All this hand-wringing came to an end last weekend with a simple handshake. Spotting Naipaul in the green room at the Hay festival, Theroux turned to McEwan and asked what he should do. "Life is short," McEwan replied. "You should say hello." And with that, handbags were holstered.
But all is not lost. Ever since Tolstoy challenged Turgenev to a duel, the vendetta has been part and parcel of literary life – and it will survive even Theroux and Naipaul. These feuds appear to be alive and well:
▶ Salman Rushdie v John le Carré
The novelists fell out in the late 80s, when Le Carré criticised Rushdie's Satanic Verses. After Le Carré was accused of anti-semitism in 1997, Rushdie waded in, writing to the Guardian about his lack of sympathy. "Rushdie's way with the truth is as self-serving as ever," replied Le Carré in the next day's edition. A further missive from Rushdie called the crime writer "a pompous ass".
Possible peacemaker: At the time Christopher Hitchens muddied the waters, calling Le Carré "a man who, having relieved himself in his own hat, makes haste to clamp the brimming chapeau on his head". It's his job to clean things up.
▶ Martin Amis v Tibor Fischer
Fischer on Amis's book, Yellow Dog: "[It] isn't bad as in not very good or slightly disappointing. It's not-knowing-where-to-look bad . . . It's like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating." Amis on Fischer: "Tibor Fischer is a creep and a wretch. Oh yeah: and a fat-arse."
Possible peacemaker: Andrew Wylie, once Fischer's agent, and still representing Amis. Fischer parted on bad terms with Wylie, but perhaps he could still get them to talk.
▶ Derek Walcott v, er, VS Naipaul
Naipaul and Walcott were born on neighbouring islands. Walcott's poetry trumpets the Caribbean; Naipaul spent his career courting the English establishment. Things came to a head in 2007, when Naipaul said that "Walcott's talent had been all but strangled by his colonial setting." Walcott responded with a poem about Naipaul, The Mongoose, which begins: "I have been bitten, I must avoid infection/ Or else I'll be as dead as Naipaul's fiction."
Possible peacemaker: Clearly Theroux, now that he's back in with Naipaul.