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For instance, the writer Caryl Phillips has taken Naipaul to task for his misanthropy, his lack of compassion, and his sardonic bitter tone, for neglecting (unlike, e.g., Wole Soyinka or Chinua Achebe) “to give his community a past,” and for serving as a “Eurocentric foreign correspondent for the West.” Without a doubt, especially when contrasted with the early Trinidadian fiction, Naipaul’s vision had turned dark.It is a vision with which one can find fault, as did Irving Howe in his review of A novelist has to be faithful to what he sees, and few see as well as Naipaul; yet one may wonder whether, in some final reckoning, a serious writer can simply allow the wretchedness of his depicted scene to become the limit of his vision.The reference to “Malays” at the end of that passage might alert a careful reader that Britain’s former colonial possessions are meant here, standing to London as once had stood the peoples on the periphery of the Roman world to its great capital city.
Individuals desiring to succeed found that their native traditions and values had become suspect, while their successes and their failures did not have a grounding in the Western pattern.
They carried too much baggage, so to speak, and yet had lost a living connection to an authentic cultural past.
These essays were the outcome of travels to far-flung places of empire that were undertaken by Naipaul after the appearance of his breakthrough novel, writings was the blighted lives of inhabitants of “the world of half-made societies” (from his 1974 essay “Conrad’s Darkness”).
Empire was no more, but the institutions of the nations artificially created, seemingly ex nihilo, were expected to embody “Western” values.
While Naipaul has not given any indication that he took an interest in Solzhenitsyn’s writings, his accounts of the effects of colonialism on native peoples—in (first English publication, 1974).
And just as Solzhenitsyn failed to display the gratitude of an exile and instead called attention to the spiritual vacuity of the West, Naipaul was denounced in attacks that neglected to deal with the substance of his writing. unrestrained by genuine learning or self-education.” Whatever his interpretation of facts on the ground, Naipaul was steeped in the historical sources, and Said’s wrong-headed response, like that to Solzhenitsyn, reflects the ideological distortions of the present age.
An effect of the realism of Naipaul’s writing style is that his portraits of individuals, e.g., Simon, manager of the company in Zaire, appear so unvarnished.
And because Simon does not simply stand for himself, but is also representative of an entire class of people, these portraits suggest sarcasm and condescension.
The ambition as well as the despair and dislocation of such postcolonials were intimately connected to Naipaul’s own story.
He often said of himself that, despite a desire to be a writer, as a member of a dispossessed Indian substratum on a colonized Caribbean island with a majority black population, he lacked the grounding in the cultural compost from which great literature grows.