V.S. Naipaul: From Gadfly to Obsessive
By Mohamed Bakari
The Man and the Prize :
The announcement of the 2001 Nobel Laureate for Literature in October that year elicited the kind of reaction that was predictable, given the reputation and the choice, that of Sir Vidhiadar Surajparasad Naipaul. Of Indian ancestry, V.S. Naipaul is a grandchild of Hindu Brahmins who found their way to the Caribbean island of Trinidad as indentured labourers to escape the grinding poverty of Utterpradesh. Naipaul's was just one of a stream of families that were encouraged to migrate to the West Indies from the former British colonies of India and Chinese enclaves in Mainland China. Slavery had been abolished in the British Empire in 1832 and the former African slaves were no longer available to the sugarcane plantations and labour had to be sought from somewhere. In their natural ingenuity the British devised the new institution of indentured labour, which was really a new euphemism for a new form of servitude. Whereas the slaves were forcibly repatriated against their will, the new indentured labourers had the carrot of landownership dangled in front of them, to lure them to places they had no idea of. The new immigrants added a new dimension to an already complex racial situation, by adding the Asian layer to the Carib, European and African admixtures created by waves of migration. The confluence of races, cultures and world views created a new identity that has been at once claimed and disclaimed by its principal components. Within the context and the psychology of slavery, racism and colonialism, it was easy for everyone to look for an external identity to validate ones' humanity or superiority over the others. Within the racialized West Indian pyramid, the Whites occupied the top notch, the Africans the bottom and everyone else somewhere between these two racial extremes.
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