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Sunday, August 28, 2005

jonty on naipaul

June 25, 2003

read this on jís blog and commented on itÖhe repliedÖand i replied backÖthat is where things stand nowÖshall post his response when i receive it laterÖ

J:6/16 excerpt from jís blog

"For VS Naipaul, 'finding the centre' has been an important part of his journey as a writer. Taking my first steps as a writer, I could argue, has involved the inverse process: seeking out the periphery. I find it difficult to fill these words with any meaning. The Muslim world (of which I have written a small section about) is at the centre of our gaze as never before; 'subcontinent' literature (Narayan, Rushdie, now Seth, Mistry and so on) has always been more than a speck on my reading horizon, and many authors are firmly within the literary establishment; and in any case, what do we have, at the notional centre, to set against the periphery - VS Naipaul, writing about Wiltshire?" Monica Ali, author of the novel Brick Lane in an article entitled "Where I'm coming from"


hi jonathan:

i found her last para summation powerful...

Of course, any literary endeavour must be judged on the work alone. It stands or falls on its own merits regardless of the colour, gender and so on of the author. A male author does not need "permission" to write about a female character, a white author does not transgress in taking a black protagonist. But the "two camp" split in my case brings me back to the idea of the periphery. How can I write about a community to which I do not truly belong? Perhaps, the answer is I can write about it because I do not truly belong. Growing up with an English mother and a Bengali father means never being an insider. Standing neither behind a closed door, nor in the thick of things, but rather in the shadow of the doorway, is a good place from which to observe. Good training, I feel, for life as a writer. --Monica ali

...thanks for the for an certain sense (veni, vidi...) he sought, he saw, he did not like it...therefore he turned rejectionist ...

J:6/18 center & periphery Ö & rejection

Ali gets Naipaul wrong, I think, in talking about his "finding the centre". It is a personal centre Naipaul has sought, unceasingly, through the decades; seeking to understand (more so than to be understood - in fact he is positively misunderstood by many). And he has sought to find this centre, I think, by exploring the colonial periphery - first his own Trinidad, and the West Indies, then India and Asia, Africa and the Americas.
The "notional centre" Ali mentions, meaning the Wiltshire Naipaul decribes in The Enigma Of Arrival, is quite something else entirely.

As for Naipaul as rejectionist, t, care to expand? Do you mean in the way Caryl Phillips and Edward Said mean when they describe Naipaul's contempt for his origins? Or is it contempt for the second rate, for the wrong values, for lack of ambition, for pettiness, for cynicism; a rejection of, and desire to escape, Fate? To be free to reinvent oneself, and become?

t:6/18 donít now if this would help

this is my readÖand i may be wrongÖbut it is a mix of everythingÖlet me see if i can elaborateÖwhat was the heading in that monica ali piece?Öwhere am i coming from?Öwell, naipaulís search for naipaul was a genuine attempt at tracing roots and finding some answers initiallyÖdonít we all indulge in that introspection at some stage in our lives?Öand as he probed and learned perhaps he did not like what he found ( ok this is my conjecture but Edward Said has elaborated on itÖCaryl Phillips had added insights with his long association with naipaul)

Öhere enters FateÖor perhaps notÖbut he does appear too cynical, and also trying too hard to reinvent himselfÖwhy one wondersÖif not for the dissatisfaction arising from the earlier probing answers in searching for the roots?Öor we can attribute it all to his fickle nature?Öis it Fate that conjures with the individualís nature to make the glass appear half full or half emptyÖand does the individual abdicates all control in this outlook decision?Ösure we need ëanchorsíÖto ëcenterí ourselvesÖbut this positioning of the self comes with reference to bearingsÖbe they social, local, present or mired in pastÖdonít know of any other wayÖ


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