Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Wednesday, December 10, 2003  

Most people in Trinidad I spoke to seem to think that V.S. Naipaul despises them but I don’t think he does. To say that Naipaul doesn’t write to be loved isn’t quite the point. Maybe he does write to be loved, but he writes to be loved by a kind of ideal audience that cuts across space and time according to an index of freedom that drives a certain kind of writer. Trinidadians will love him on some day in the future and then maybe at some later date they’ll learn to hate him again. It will all depend on how those indices match up. I feel sad for Trinidadians sometimes because of how they are locked away from Naipaul in the way that I don’t feel locked away from Naipaul and they can’t get the simple comforts of his tragic vision. But they are terrible comforts anyway. Sometimes you feel that Naipaul is trying very hard to write for Trinidadians but it’s all quite impossible and then he becomes mean. And when he’s mean he says a lot of true things. It’s hard to picture him in Port of Spain or anywhere else in Trinidad for that matter. It is hard to picture him as a Trinidadian. That’s probably where some of the resentment comes from too, the fact that he has simply gone away from Trinidad. Naipaul had to leave Trinidad because he particularly understood how devastating a place like Trinidad is since it can’t really be any one thing at all. You realize how important a thing like identity is when you understand Naipaul and you understand why he could never really go back to Trinidad. But he can’t really be in India either, or England, or Africa, or anywhere else. He can’t be anywhere, which is his remarkable freedom and something of his doom.

-- From the essay Fragments on Trinidad and Politics by Morgan Reis, which first appeard in the Old Town Review, and is reprinted in today's Express. Despite its unfortunate title, and Reis's deification of Christopher Hitchens (and his wholesale acceptance of Hitchens's assessment that, in Reis's words "the Left is over and done with"), it is a worthwhile read.

(Interesting sample anecdote: "My friend Jason says he saw an Indian man sitting on the side of the road once with a bloody face. He stopped and asked what happened. 'I went over,' the man said, 'but luckily my seat belt wasn’t on and I went through the window and into a tree.' There’s something particularly Trinidadian in that.")

posted by Jonathan | 8:21 AM 0 comments


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