Friday, June 13, 2008
Editorial: "Calabashing Naipaul." STABROEK NEWS June 12, 2008.
Before his long harangue of V. S. Naipaul was read at the Calabash literary festival in Jamaica, Derek Walcott spoke at length about film, music and the state of West Indian literature. Among his many thoughtful asides, he spoke about the difficulty of finding a voice in the relative obscurity of the modern Caribbean. “The new American empire,” he told the poet Kwame Dawes (to intermittent applause), “is the world empire, and whatever the tastes of the empire are, they’re inflicted on the colonies… we are the intellectual colonies of America; so is a lot of the world. So if people say in America… that you don’t tell stories, you don’t mould character, you don’t have a beginning, a middle, an end. That’s old fashioned. Well, it’s a great thing that the Caribbean art is old-fashioned, because you still tell stories, which is what the human heart craves.” For many of us, Walcott included, the early novels of VS Naipaul answered this craving. They told our stories with a fond attention to the peculiarities of West Indian life, and a humorous truthfulness that has rarely, if ever, been equalled. Naipaul’s genius for evocative details caught the lilt and rhythm of West Indian speech perfectly, and his sense of what might be called the Caribbean Quixotic, framed a generation of political dreamers in unforgiving and unforgettable prose. His ascent into the highest rank of world literature refuted his now infamous jibe that “nothing was created in the West Indies.” Along the way, whatever his failings, he was still our misanthrope. Then, something changed. He refashioned himself as an exclusively British writer – in many ways he had always been British, just with West Indian roots – and his long leave-taking of the Caribbean ended with a tribute to “India, home of my ancestors” in his Nobel acceptance speech. . . . (Thanks to Mark McWatt for the link.) Read the whole article here: http://www.stabroeknews.com/?p=14572.