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Vidia Naipaul - artist of the absurd. Zinkhan, Elaine Joan 1972

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VIDIA NAIPAUL - ARTIST OF THE ABSURD by ELAINE JOAN ZINKHAN . A . , University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus, 1970 A. THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in the Department of: English' We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard UNIVERSITY5 OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August, 1972 In presenting t h i s thesis in p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of t h i s thesis f o r scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representatives. It is understood that copying or p u b l i c a t i o n of t h i s thesis f o r f i n a n c i a l gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Depa rtment The University of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada ABSTRACT This thesis acknowledges that the philosophical basis of the novels and short stories of Vidia Naipaul bears a significant resemblance to the tenets of Absurdity set out in Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus and witnessed in various other Absurdist writings. At the same time i t attempts to demonstrate that Naipaul's Absurdist vision reflects a Zeitgeist funda-mental to the West Indies. It in no way suggests, however, that Naipaul consciously imitated the thoughts of Camus or others, or that he deliberately set out to circumscribe West Indian feelings. Chapter One attempts to demonstrate that Naipaul's most crucial perceptions of l i f e have been those of disorientation and f u t i l i t y . It then shows where awareness of an inharmonious existence has been especially prevalent in the twentieth century, and i t goes on to examine in some detail the discovery of the Absurd Conjunction between the world and individual consciousness articulated by Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus. In addition i t describes the alternatives which Camus and other Absurdist writers advance to counter-act the anguish of Absurd Discovery. The second chapter begins by revealing the relationship between the absurd as "ridiculous" and the Absurd as "anguish", demonstrating that while Naipaul's perception of the irreducibility of the world is more central to his later works, i t begins already in his earlier ones. It then goes on to discuss various aspects of Absurd Discovery which appear in Naipaul1s fiction: discovery of the isolation of man; discovery of the hostility of the world to the desires of man; and discovery of the disparity between the possible and the actual. i i i iv Chapter Three shows how Naipaul's characters respond to the challenge of meaninglessness with both negation and affirmation.. Although his characters? frequently submit to despondency, this is in most cases only an i n i t i a l re-action. In a vein similar to that of Camus, Naipaul implies that the Absurd would best be confronted by rebellion, creativity, personal involvement or, barring a l l else, ironic assessment. The final chapter demonstrates that the world of Vidia Naipaul - the disorder to which he attests and the alternatives he offers - while exhibiting sentiments essential to the European Absurdists, also mirrors experiences general to the West Indies.. Rather than dissecting with dispassionate super-iority a background from which he has had occasion to feel alienated, Naipaul has sensitively illuminated a geographical region which, both historically and sociologically, has come to encompass its own especial Sisyphean sphere. (Supervisor) TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter Pag* I VIDIA NAIPAUL AND THE TRADITION OF THE ABSURD . . . . 1 I I ABSURD DISCOVERY 16 I I I ABSURD CONSEQUENCE 54 IV VIDIA NAIPAUL AND ABSURDITY IN THE WEST INDIES . . . . 88 A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 1 H CHAPTER I Vldia Naipaul and the Tradition of the Absurd To be Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is to be laurelled and left. It 1 2 is to be one of the United Kingdom's most prize-laden novelists and one of her least read. And i t is to be misunderstood. It is to be told on one occasion that one's "whole purpose is to show how funny Trinidad Indians are," and, on another, that one's characters are described with detached contempt, that in one's utilization of "castrated satire"^ one has let one's region down, has come to treat one's roots with diabolical scorn. In point of fact—and central to any understanding of his work— Naipaul has no well-defined "roots." Presently domiciled in Britain he is the quintessential alien: in England he is an immigrant; in Trinidad, as he des-cribes in The Middle Passage, while on the one hand he had been an Indian, an exotic Asian who remained outside the frenzied vitality of Carnival and calypso, on the other he had become an intellectual misfit within the East Indian community—a community itself vacillating insecurely between 5 tradition-without-philosophy and American-based modernity. And these Trinidadian experiences were not the only ones in the West Indies which determined his alienations on a return visit he found himself an "islander" in Guyana and an "Englishman" in Martinique. Nor could he, ethnically speaking, empathize with the Jamaican Rastafarian movement. And in any event there seemed l i t t l e with which to happily identify in an area which had known only dereliction, where nothing had been "created": 1 2 Nothing was created i n the B r i t i s h West Indies, no c i v i l i z a t i o n as i n Spanish America, no great revolu-t i o n as i n H a i t i or the; American colonies;*. There were only plantations, prosperity, decline, neglect:; the; size of the islands c a l l e d f o r nothing else. (MP,,27) But i f his experiences i n the West Indies had l e f t him f e e l i n g alienated, 6 Naipaul's subsequent attempt, recorded i n An Area of Darkness, to trace h i s heritage back to India proved equally disappointing. Although for the f i r s t time i n his l i f e he was undistinguishable by appearance, he s t i l l remained an outsider: he was, after a l l , not from India., At bast, his s l i g h t B r i t i s h accent set him apart as being an Indian student returning from studies i n Europe. The incredible i n e f f i c i e n c y of India, the spectacle made of religion*, the caste system which so r i d i c u l e d the street sweeper, the s o c i a l i t y of de-fecation, the tender attitude taken toward poverty, and,, f i n a l l y , the v i s i t to the v i l l a g e of his ancestors which offered horror and embarrassment—in a l l this? India seemed irremediably foreign: "somewhere something fjhadj snapped." (Area,207)» Later s t i l l , when Naipaul deliberately set out i n The 7 Loss of E l Dorado, to determine the beginnings of West Indian history, he confronted greater disorder than ever.. Of the Trinidad which had been the centre f o r the E l Dorado expeditions into the Guiana i n t e r i o r , nothing r e -mained, (El Dor,10)eThe present inhabitants of the i s l a n d were a l l "immi-grants," the majority f o r whom i t might be wisest, after a l l , i f the past were l e f t forgotten. In t h i s piece of research Naipaul only confirmed hiss own "placelessness" and his knowledge of the lack of pattern and p o s s i b i l i t y i n the world he had known. And i t i s t h i s v i s i o n of nowhereness,, of f u t i l i t y , that i s r e f l e c t e d i n his eight works of f i c t i o n . Awareness of an inharmonious universe i s by no means, of course, a unique perception. Feelings of i s o l a t i o n and uncertainty as to one's i d e n t i t y 3 are as old as man, as old as death. From Socrates' nostalgia for s e l f -g knowledge to Samuel Beckett's "they give birth astride of a grave," the strangeness and hostility of the world have come to be f e l t alike by a l l who have recourse to thought. As Geoffrey Clive has noted, a l l men are at some time offended by virtue of envisaging possibilities incompatible with o reality; a l l men fear death. But i t would appear that these feelings have become even more endemic to man since the latter half of the eighteenth century when, guided by the disparities between the idealism engendered by the ambience of the French Revolution and the horror of the Reign of Terror, and guided even more by Marx and Darwin, man became extraordinarily sensitive to the po s s i b i l i t i e s and disappointments of history and nature. Thus arose Manfred's "we are the fools of time and terror";"^ so too, William James1 allowance of a "dissatisfaction with one's self and i r r i t a t i o n at others and anger at circumstances'1;"'""*' and hence Dostoevsky's expression of worldwide uncertainty and sp i r i t u a l dereliction: There lives not one single man, after a l l , who i s not to some extent i n despair, i n whose inmost parts there does not dwell a disquietude, a perturbation, a discord, an anxious dread of an unknown something. In the twentieth century these feelings have become increasingly widespread, two world wars having helped to engender a sensibility of anxiety and frag-mentation. The dadaists, with their n i h i l i s t i c wish of destroying the world as i t stands and creating a substitute world in which nothing exists showed where such anxiety could lead i n the extreme; and the surrealists, too, 13 were "f a i t h f u l to most of the principles of nihilism." But this was only a fraction of the reflection of upheaval by writers and intellectuals: Franz Kafka wove into his work a menace devoid of explanation; the philosophers of "existentialism" denied a l l traditional philosophies; and Albert Camus, making A no attempt to solve or explain, set f o r t h i n The Myth of Sisyphus what has remained one of the most b r i l l i a n t descriptions of metaphysical morass. The "divorce" between the world and i n d i v i d u a l consciousness, the conjunction of man's no s t a l g i a f o r unity with the fragmentation of the u n i -v e r s e — t h i s i s what Camus defines as the Absurd. Central to Camus' study-i s the question of s u i c i d e . Must the shock of d i s i l l u s i o n be followed by a premature stoppage of l i f e — o r ought an e f f o r t be made to see what can be salvaged? The Myth of Sisvohus. unlike the t r a c t s of the dadaists and s u r r e a l i s t s , suggests that metaphysical anguish need not lead to n i h i l i s m , but should become, instead, a point of departure f o r f u r t h e r awareness and a c t i v i t y . Camus begins his study with an i n q u i r y i n t o the nature of existence. The f e e l i n g of the i m p o s s i b i l i t y of c o n s t i t u t i n g the world as a uni t y i s not discriminatory! i t can s t r i k e any man at any time. Camus c i t e s four circum-stances which give i t currency: i t a r r i v e s when man becomes conscious of the mechanical, weary nature of h i s l i f e , when he begins to question the "chain of d a i l y gestures"; i t a r r i v e s with a sudden consciousness of the meaning of time, that time i s man's enemy, that man belongs to the moment and the moment culminates i n death; i t a r r i v e s with man's sense of being an a l i e n i n the world, a world i n which i l l u s i o n s have been shattered, a world i n which objects be-come strangely "foreign and i r r e d u c i b l e " ; and i t a r r i v e s , f i n a l l y , when man senses h i s a l i e n a t i o n not only from the world i n general, but also from other men. (Sis,10-11). The world i t s e l f i s not Absurd f o r Camus; nor i s man. I t i s i n the "confrontation of [the} i r r a t i o n a l and the w i l d longing f o r c l a r i t y " (Sis,16), i n the confrontation i t s e l f , that l i e s Absurdity. Man wishes to understand, 5 to reduce the world to human terms: yet despite knowledge, despite science, he cannot finally apprehend. For Camus there are thus three characters in the Absurd drama: the irrational, human nostalgia, and the Absurd that is born of their encounter (Sis,21), The Absurd does not exist in what one confronts, i t exists in the act of confrontation: There are absurd marriages, challenges, rancors, silences, wars, and even peace treaties. For each of them the absurdity springs from a comparison. I am thus justified in saying that the feeling of absurdity does not spring from the mere scrutiny of a fact or an impression, but that i t bursts from the comparison between a bare fact and a certain reality, between an action and the world that transcends i t . The absurd is essentially a divorce. It lies in neither of the elements comparedj is born of their confrontation. (Sis,22-23) But Camus is interested less in Absurd recognition than in its consequences, in the fundamental philosophical question of whether or not to continue: If one is assured of these facts, what is one to conclude, how far is one to go to elude nothing? Is one to die voluntarily, or to hope in spite of everything? (Sis,12) For Camus the consequence fundamental to a l l else is lucidity. The chief condition of man's metaphysical inquiry becomes the preservation of that which crushes him, respect for the Absurd Equilibrium and the unceasing struggle i t involves (Sis,23). Lucidity implies an absence of hope: the world is one in which "thoughts, like lives, are devoid of future" (Sis,5l)« Thus Camus saw the "existentialists" committing philosophical suicide in their finding reason to hope, or, in the case of the Christian existentialists, in the deification of the impoverisher. Karl Jaspers, for example, through a blind leap of faith, beyond any possible explanation and interpretation, out of a confession of impotence, asserts a superhuman significance to l i f e (Sis,24). The Absurd for Jaspers is transformed into God. By sacrificing the rational for this leap into faith the Absurd Equilibrium is destroyed: 6 If there is an absurd, i t is in man's* universe. The moment the notion transforms itself into eternity's: springboard, i t ceases to be linked to human lucidity. The absurd is no longer that evidence that man ascertains without consenting to i t . The struggle is eluded. Man integrates the absurd and in that communion causes to disappear its essential character, which is; opposition, laceration, and divorce. This leap is an escape. (Sis,26) Soreni Kierkegaard and Edmund Husserl equally f a i l to philosophically comply with the importance Camus attaches to lucidityj they too, evade the evidence. While Kierkegaard deifies the Absurd, for Husserl the world becomes clear, thus negating the one nostalgia which Camus finds central to the interpretation of existence—-the nostalgia for unity^ (Sis,36), Camus' Absurd Man conducts himself in the light of consciousness, does not wish to do that which he cann<ht understand: he will be tempted neither into deification nor into hope; he is innocent of feeling the loss of immortal l i f e ; and l i f e does not need a meaning to be lived. Thus suicide is not a consideration. Suicide, like the leap into faith, is acceptance in the extreme; man sees his future and rushes toward it,. (Sis,4-0),"As William Oliver comments,, the only value man can affirm with certainty is life.. If suicide i a contemplated!,, mans sacrifices this concrete value for "a dream of power and permanence that 15 no man on this earth has ever experienced." In a world ruled by contra-diction and impotence. (Sis,18)^the Absurd must be kept alive; and i t can only be kept so by living, by contemplation. The Absurd Man lives without appeal, but lives with what he has. Absurd Discovery itself becomes "a lucid invitation to live and to create, in the very midst of the desert," (Sis,v)« Honour lies in enduring, not in escaping. And the Absurd Man attempts neither to solve nor to explain:; experience—and hence quantity, rather than quality, of experience—is what becomes important. For Camus Don Juan admirably exemp-li f i e s the Absurd Man in his requiring a number of affairs, in his disinterest 7 in the perfection of any one woman. The actor, too, is the consummate Absurd Man, touching, as he does, the lives and history of so many: Conscious men have- been seen to f u l f i l l their task amid the most stupid of wars without considering them-selves in contradiction. This is because i t was essential to elude nothing. There is thus a metaphysical honor in enduring the world's absurdity. Conquest or play-acting, multiple loves ... are tributes that man pays to his dignity in a campaign in which he is defeated in advance.. (Sis „69) Affirmation can thus be found in honorable endurance alone:"even within the limits of nihilism i t is possible to find the means to proceed] beyond: nihilism," (Sis„v)» Camus* example of the quintessential Absurd Man is the mythical Sisyphus, a figure for whom conscious and honorable confrontation with the world's irrationality is paramount. In condemning Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence i t just as ceaselessly falls back again, the gods imposed the punishment of futile labour., Yet Sisyphus vis; heroic in more than the i n i t i a l passion for l i f e ^ t h a t woni him his punishment: he is also heroic in that he sustains his lucidity. Camus interprets Sisyphus as; reaffirming this lucidity each time he returns to the bottom of the h i l l . Though consciousness of his fate is in essence tragic, i t also engenders victory: in understanding the circumstances of one's condition, and in en-during, lies nobility. Camus imagines the scorn of Sisyphus, the contem-plation of his torment, this knowing of the night, as being enough to " f i l l a man's heart J'(Sis,90-91'). But i f the ironic consciousness created by the experience of the Absurd lends itself to what Camus has called "joy'1 (Sis,90)9the supreme Absurd joy is creation. If,to remain conscious of Absurdity, man must 8 breathe with i t , recognize its lessons and recover its flesh./ (Sis,69 )^ art is the best means of doing so: "in this universe the work of art is then the sole chance of keeping his consciousness and of fixing its ad-ventures. Creating is living doublyf," (Sis, 69-70)«But in a work of art in which the temptation to explain remains strong, and in which conclusion seems inevitable—such as in fictional creation—there must be a "precise estimate of the limits of truth-," (Sis,85). The "thesis-novel" is for Camus a most despicable form of creation,, (Sis, 8 5 ) » If "of a l l the schools of patience and lucidity, creation is the most effective." (Sis, 85)5creation is also an extension of these schools, and is linked very closely with that other side of Camus, revolt. In The  Rebel, published ten years after The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus articulated a further alternative to nihilism. As Herbert Hochberg has noted, while in the earlier work Camus sought to establish the Absurdity of the human 17 condition, in The Rebel he set out to derive an ethic from that condition. And yet the concept of revolt is not absent from his earlier discussion of Absurdity. Revolt, after a l l , exists in the very act of lucidity: Living is keeping the absurd alive. Keeping i t alive i s , above a l l , contemplating i t . Unlike Eurydice, the absurd dies only when we turn away from i t . One of the only coher-ent philosophical positions is thus revolt. It is a con-stant confrontation between man and his own obscurity. It is an insistence upon an impossible transparency. (Sis,UO) But revolt also supersedes lucidity. Camus already indicated in The Myth  of Sisyphus that a time comes when man must choose between contemplation and action,, (Sis, 64.)* The metaphysical rebel, frustrated by the universe, refuses to approve the condition in which he finds himself (Rebel, 23). He will not remain paralyzed by simple acceptance of Absurd estrangement. The 9 rebel i s active and aggressive, even though he knows a l l action i s ultimately-useless: Metaphysical rebellion i s a claim, motivated by the concept of a complete unity, against the suffering of l i f e and death and a protest against the human condition both for i t s incompleteness, thanks to death, and i t s wastefulness, thanks to ev/il. (Rebel,24) In the rebel's shattering of the silence of Absurdist contemplation, anguish becomes a point of departure, an experience to be lived through (Rebel,8). The metaphysical rebel i s -transformed into the historical rebel when he adds to his protest against the incomprehensibility of l i f e a rejection of an intrusion upon his sense of justice: In every act of rebellion, the rebel simultaneously experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringement of his rights and a complete and spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself . . . up to this point he has at least remained silent and has abandoned.:himself to the form of despair in which a condition i s accepted even though i t i s considered unjust . . . but from the moment that the rebel finds his voice . . . he begins to desire and to judge. The rebel, in the etymological sense, does a complete turnabout. He acted under the lash of his master's whip. Suddenly he turns and faces him. -(Rebel, 13-14) The rebel i s in fact an extension of the Absurd Man, despite Camus' use of the word "turnabout" here. For while the rebel does move on from the i n i t i a l Absurdist position of contemplation, the Absurd Man too, through scorn, had won a victory. In both one f inds affirmation—although affirmation i s admittedly relative, since any victory achieved for the Absurd Man can only be relative (Rebel, 2 9 0 )In both, value exists i n embracing l i f e , rather than i n re-nouncing i t , and in the persistence for truth in a universe that seems to suggest that truth i s unlikely. The rebel, as the Absurd Man, finds transcendent value i n creation. 10 I f i n The Myth of Sisyphus Camus had already found c r e a t i v i t y the most effect i v e of the schools of patience and l u c i d i t y r ( S i s , 8 5 ) ^ i n The Rebel art i s again seen not only as a demand for unity and a rejection of n i h i l i s m , but as, i n f a c t , the consummate r e b e l l i o n . The demands of the rebel are also the demands of the aesthete.(Rebel,255)«Both r e b e l l i o n and creation are "fabricators of universes," (Rebel, 2 5 5^fabrication i t s e l f negating despair: Real despair means death, the grave, or the abyss. I f despair prompts speech or reasoning, and above a l l i f i t results i n wri t i n g , f r a t e r n i t y i s established, natural objects are j u s t i f i e d , love i s Jg£*n. A l i t e r a t u r e of despair i s a contradiction i n terms.-In both The Myth of Sisyphus and i n The Rebel the confrontation of man's nostalgia f o r order with the i r r a t i o n a l i t y of the world presents a challenge. Rather than seeking suicide or a leap into a "tailofc-made world of hope,"^ th§: Absurd Man chooses to c l i n g to l u c i d i t y and to remain djt continual revolt against his condition. Though death i s the inescapable f i n a l i t y , he can adjust his l i f e and actions to that f i n a l i t y , and be fascinated i n the process. But th i s simultaneous awareness of an irremediable destiny and a fascination for l i f e are most b r i l l i a n t l y captured i n Camus i n a cameo passage from The Outsider, a passage worth quoting atilength: Nothing, nothing had the least importance, and I knew quite w e l l why. HejjBhe prison chaplain], too, knew why. From the dark horizon of my future a sort of slow, persistent breeze had been blowing towards me, a l l my l i f e long, from the years that were to come . . . what difference could they make to me, the death of others, or a mother's love, or his Godj or the way one decides to l i v e , the fate one thinks one chooses, since one and the same fate was bound to "choose" not only one but thousands of mill i o n s of privi l e g e d people who, l i k e him, c a l l e d themselves my brothers . . . i t was as i f that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with i t s signs and stars, f o r the f i r s t time, the f i r s t , I l a i d my heart open to the benign indifference of the 11 universe. To fee l i t so like myself, indeed so brotherly, made me real|ge that I'd been happy, and that I was happy s t i l l . Meursault's ironic assessment, lik e that of Sisyphus, enables him to under-stand mankind and laugh at i t s illu s i o n s . The Absurd Man of Albert Camus does not seek escape. He i s conscious of his plight, but w i l l neither hope nor deify his impoverisher. Nor does he submit to nihilism. He lives himself to death aware of his condition of Absurdity, aware, too, of his own culpability. He w i l l find solace in his lucidity, i n his scorn, in his attempt to l i v e toward an impossible ideal, in his concern for others, and i n creation. Camus cannot accept the emphasis that the existentialists place on total liberty within man's provision, although Jean Paul Sartre comes close to his concept of the Absurd Man i n his character Roquentin. Roquentin recognizes his "nausea" as being contingent upon the collapse of the i l l u s i o n of familiarity i n the world, endures i t , rather than seeking escape, and goes on to a consideration of the supreme Absurd joy of creation: A book. Naturally, at f i r s t i t would only be a troublesome, t i r i n g work, i t wouldn't stop me from existing or feeling that I exist. But a time would come when the book would be written, when i t would be behind me, and I think that a l i t t l e of i t s c l a r i t y might f a l l over my past. Then, perhaps^ because of i t , I could remember my l i f e without repugnance. Apart from Camus the phenomenon of Absurdity has been most se l f -consciously described by the dramatists of the "Theatre of the Absurd"—and, of course, by Martin Esslin. Ionesco, for example, sees in £he ir r a t i o n a l i t y of the world and in man's need for order the same Absurd Equilibrium that Camus delineates. In an essay on Kafka Ionesco defines his understanding of the Absurd as "that which i s devoid of purpose . . . cut off from his r e l i -gious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man i s lostj a l l his actions 12 become senseless, absurd, useless." Speaking very generally, however, the Theatre of the Absurd would appear more expressive of the dark, . i r -rational forces of man. Estragon and Vladimir i n Waiting for Godot consider suicide, while Hamm and Clov of Endgame participate in a quintessential death masque. Yet even here an affirmation-of-sorts takes place through scorn. Estragon's ironic awareness of the Absurdity of his condition ("we 23 always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist" ) i s a surmounting of that condition, the importance of which Ionesco too, was! well aware: Humor i s the only possibility we possess of detaching ourselves—yet only after we have surmounted, assimilated, taken cognizance of i t — f r o m our tragicomic human condition, the malaise of being. To become conscious of what i s horrifying and to laugh at i t i s to become master of that which i s horrifying. In both Camus and in the Theatre of the Absurd darkness i s almost always tempered with li g h t ; and i n both great value i s placed upon sustaining the Absurd Equilibrium: Today, when death and old age are increasingly concealed behind euphemisms and comforting baby talk, and l i f e i s threatened with being smothered i n the mass consumption of hypnotic mechanized vulgarity, the need to confront man with the rea l i t y of his situation i s greater than ever. For the dignity of man l i e s in his a b i l i t y to face r e a l i t y i n a l l i t s senselessness; to accept i t freely, without fear, without illusions—and to laugh at i t . In a world which can provide no ultimate answers, which with i t s reminder of death renders a l l activity impotent, revealing human isolation irremed-iable, one must nevertheless endure. Victory can s t i l l be achieved in facing up to the void, and, l i k e Sisyphus, i n laughing at i t . But for Naipaul too, the very fact that pen has been put to paper demonstrates a challenging of the condition of Absurdity. For a l l the depth of 13 despondency generated by Trinidadian history and possibility, and for a l l his feelings of rootlessness, in the end Naipaul, like Camus and other Absurdist writers, is content neither with passive acceptance nor with renunciation. The Absurd Hero confronts as well as discoversj and i t is a combination of Consciousness and Consequence that Naipaul sets forth in his eight works of fiction. FOOTNOTES V.S. Naipaul was born of a Hindu Brahmin family in Chaguanas, Trinidad, in 1932. In 1950 he left for Britain to attend Oxford University. Except for a visit to the West Indies in 1960-1961, and to India in 1962-1964, he has since resided in London. 2 John Llewelyn Rhys Memorial Prize, 1957, for The Mystic Masseur: Somerset Maugham Award, 1959, for Miguel Street: Phoenix Trust Award, 1962, for An Area of Darkness: Hawthorndon Prize, 1963, for Mr. Stone and the  Knights Companion: W.H. Smith Award, 1967, for The Mimic Men: Booker Prize, 1971, for In a Free State . One cannot but find i t interesting that his most critically lauded work, A House for Mr. Biswas, has apparently received no award. 3 Naipaul quoting from a review, "The Regional Barrier," Times  Literary Supplement. 15 August 1958, p. 37. ^ George Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile (London: Michael Joseph, I960), p. 225. This comment, however, was made after only Naipaul's f i r s t three books were written, and Lamming apparently recanted even this, according to an article in the Jamaican Sunday Gleaner. 17 February 1963, p. not available. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964. First published 1962, jpp. 88-89. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 196.4. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. 7 London: Deutsch, 1969. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. Waiting for Godot (New York: Grove Press, 1964), p. 57. ^ The Romantic Enlightenment (New York: Meridian Books, I960), p. 132. ^ From Lord Byron's Manfred, in Emaest Bernbaum, ed., Anthology of Romanticism (New York: Ronald Press, 194-8* First published 1929), p. 597. 11 The Romantic Enlightenment, p. 77. 1 2 Ibid., p. 107. TO Albert Camus, The Rebel. Trans. Anthony Bower (New York: Vintage Books, 1956. First published 1951), p. 95. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. The Myth of Sisyphus. Trans. Justin O'Brien (New York: Random House, 1955. First publsihed 194-2), p. 5. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. 15 1 5 "After Absurdity," Educational Theatre Journal. 17, 3 (October, 1965), 194. 16 There are many variants of the tale of Sisyphus. One of these, cited by Camus, is that when Pluto granted Sisyphus permission to return to earth in order to chastise his wife, he became so infatuated once again with the beauty of the world that he refused to go back to the eternal darkness. Recalls, anger, warnings were to no avail. Finally Mercury had to lead him forcibly back to the underworld. (Sis,88-89) 17 "Albert Camus and the Ethic of Absurdity," Ethics. 75, 2 (January, 1965), 87. 18 Albert Camus in L'Ete. Trans, in John Cruikshank, Albert Camus  and the Literature of Revolt (London; Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 3. Thomas Hanna, The Thought and ^ t of Albert Camus (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958), p. 23. 20 Trans. Stuart Gilbert (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961. First published 1942), pp. 118-120. 21 Nausea. Trans. Lloyd Alexander (New York: New Directions, 1964.. First published 1959), p. 178. 22 In Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd (New York: Anchor Books, 1969), p. 5. 23 Waiting for Godot, p. 44. ^ In The Theatre of the Absurd, p. 158. 2 5 Ibid., p. 377. CHAPTER II Absurd Discovery For Naipaul, as for other writers in Absurdist "tradition," discovery of the placelessness and unimportance of man, and of the separation of one man from another, is not the abbreviated accidental anguish of a post-adoles-cent first novel; i t provides a nucleus for a l l of his writing, existing (though admittedly in more subterranean fashion) already in the early works and swelling into resolute conviction in the later ones. But at the same time i t would be impossible to escape perception of that other absurdity (to be distinguished fronn the former by the use of a small "a") commonly defined as the "unreasonable," the "ridiculous," the "foolish." A preliminary reading of Naipaul's earlier works often provides, in fact, a greater awareness of the absurd as "ridiculous" than as "anguish" It cannot be denied that the eccentricities of Ganesh Ramsumair, Trinidad's "mystic masseur,""'*'are often downright hilarious: Ganesh's buying books by the inch (mm,15) and for the sake of their smell (mm,82), the farcical content of his 101 Questions and  Answers on the Hindu Relieion. of which he sends a copy to M.K. Gandhi ("Ques-tion Num-ber One. What is Hin-du-ism? Answer: Hin-du-ism is the re-li-gion of the Hin-dus. Ques-tion Num-ber Two. Why am I a Hin-du? Answer: Be-cause my pa-rents and grand-pa-rents were Hin-dus" mm, 108), the dinner at Government House (mm, 206-209), and even the predictable walk-outs in legis-lature (mm, 213) are more revealing of what A.C. Derrick calls a "sheer sense of fun"' than of the primitive hostility of the world, 16 The absurd-as-ridiculous i s paramount too, at least on the most 3 manifest level, in the various sketches which make up Miguel Street. Comic exaggeration creates near-caricatures of many of the people in this back street in Port of Spain. The pose, indeed, i s not un-Chaucerian: Naipaul's species of humanity are as delicately drawn, as deftly distinguished as those early pilgrims. Laura, with her eight children by seven different men i s a Trinidadian Wife of Bathj Man-Man, with his pretense of sacredness (until the people take up his plea and stone him) i s not unlike the bombastic Pardoner— though, to do the former justice, he i s nowhere as v i l e . The ridiculous would at f i r s t appear the very essence of this street, however, from the awe of the boys for " l i t r i t c h e r and poultry" (MSt,4l) and Elias' statement of intention of impressing his overseas examiners ("I going to be so good that this Mr. Cambridge go bawl when he read what I write for him." MSt ,4 l ) , to Hat's taking thirteen boys to the local cricket game and pretending they are a l l his„(MSt,200). Absurdity (with a small "a") also occurs in the early stories of A Flag on the I s l a n d / The narrator's aunt:.in "My Aunt Gold Teeth" (1954), for example, i s a person of the most eccentric temperament: not only does she exchange a l l of her good teeth for gold ones, but in her religious mania she collects both Hindu and Christian images and prays to the deities of both. The "ridiculous" exists too, i n the story of Mr. Hinds and the ram which neither he nor anyone else wants: and certainly the mirth of "The Night Watchman's Occurr-ence Book" (1962) and "The Baker's Story" (1962) i s untempered by metaphysical anguish. The picaroon nature of society displayed i n the campaign of Pat Harbans i n The Suffrage of Elvi r a . ^ and many of the antics of Mr. Biswas himself (one 18 t h i n k s of the h i g h l y appropriate but a l s o amusing names by which Biswas r e -f e r s t o the v a r i o u s members of the T u l s i f a m i l y , and of the circumstances of h i s e x p u l s i o n , as a youth, from Pundit Jairam's) a l s o generate happy l a u g h t e r . Behind the "comic exaggeration," the "sense of f u n , " the a b s u r d i t y of even these e a r l y w r i t i n g s of Naipaul, however, there a l r e a d y looms t h a t other Absurdity. C e r t a i n l y a f t e r The Suffrage of E l v i r a merriment, as W i l l i a m Walsh has noted, i s v i r t u a l l y "bleached awayj' But "Absurdity" i n the sense i n which Camus used i t and " a b s u r d i t y " as " r i d i c u l o u s " are not u n r e l a t e d . Where the one i s the c o n j u n c t i o n of man a g a i n s t the world, the d e s i r e f o r u n i t y as opposed t o an i r r a t i o n a l Order, the other r e s u l t s from t h i s v e r y c o n j u n c t i o n , i s a heightening of one of the elements i n v o l v e d i n the c o n j u n c t i o n . The world of Ganesh Ramsumair, f o r example, i s " r i d i c u l o u s " because i t i s perceived by some-one outside Ganesh, by a n a r r a t o r who i s aware of the discrepancy be-tween p o t e n t i a l and e x i s t e n c e . The d e s i r e of Ganesh to achieve greatness and the mode by which t h i s ambition i s a t t a i n e d c o u l d e a s i l y become a theme f o r tragedy, a s i t u a t i o n f o r Sisyphean anguish; by the a d d i t i o n of the element of exaggeration i t i s converted i n t o the grotesque. To c l a i m , as d i d Anthony Quinton, t h a t The Mystic Masseur i s "yet another piece of i n t u i t i v e or s l a p -happy West Indian f i c t i o n as pleasant, muddled and inconsequent as the 8 T r i n i d a d i a n Hindus i t d e s c r i b e s " i s to d i s p l a y the worst k i n d of c r i t i c a l n egligence. Buffoonery and burlesque do e x i s t i n Ganesh Ramsumair and many of the other c h a r a c t e r s — b u t as o f t e n as not they are merely a masking, a c o l o u r i n g of an e s s e n t i a l l y s e r i o u s s u b j e c t . Despite Naipaul's a d m i t t i n g t o being more aware of s o c i e t y as a u n i t y i n the e a r l y novels than he was l a t e r o t o be, undertones already e x i s t of the deeply s e r i o u s , of metaphysical anguish. As F r a n c i s Wyndham has observed, f r i v o l i t y and g a i e t y i n Naipaul are almost always mixed w i t h pathos! 19 They ^ Naipaul's f i r s t three novels^ are certainly very funny indeed, but like the best comedy they are also deeply serious . . . Mr. Naipaul's air of detachment and gaiety of manner seem to have blinded many to tljig relevant and unwelcome message that they in fact convey. Caprice in Naipaul, even in the more frivolous early works, exists not in the overall conception but in the occasional incident, the occasional phrase. Certainly there are elements of funj but this is not the nucleus of Naipaul. Beyond the "absurd" lies an abyss. The abyss is one both of isolation and of the conflict between the possible and the actual. Discovery of the world as "foreign and irreducible?' (Sis,ll), as separate from man—discovery of the isolation of man in con-junction both with the world and with other men—comes already to the buffoon Ganesh Ramsuamir. This author of a work on constipation, the inspiration for which was the musical toilet-roll rack (ram,165) has not always been the con-tented and confident masseur of the days just preceding his M.B.E. Much of his early life—which the narrator sees (tongue in cheek) as presaging his later distinction—has been one of isolation. Not only is Ganesh cut off at an early age from close family ties (he has apparently neither mother nor siblings), but he is set apart too, from society. Kis Indian country back-ground and his Indian name isolate hira at the city College, where most of the boys are from African or "mixed" descent: and at the same time his College education sets him apart from his Hindu background. Ke chooses, for example, to consider himself as an orphan rather than agree to his father's wishes to:marry early. Having close ties neither to family and background, nor to new schoolmates (except to another Indian boy, Indarsingh, whom he will meet again in the political arena), Ganesh's isolation is not to be shortly alleviated. The "denseness" (Sis,11), the mechanical irrationality of the world 20 are further manifested during his short career as a school-teacher, a career i n which his sensitivity i s t r i e d by the headmaster's "the purpose of this school i s to form, not to inform" (mm,24), and i n which he i s abused by the other teachers. Ganesh quits his teaching post and returns to Fourways, but s t i l l he finds no r e l i e f : For more than two months he loafed. He didn't know what he wanted to do or what he could do, and he was beginning to doubt the value < of doing anything at a l l . He ate at the houses of people he knew and, for the rest, merely wandered around. He bought a second-hand bicycle and went for long rides i n the h i l l y lanes near Fourways. People said:, 'He doing a lot of thinking, that boy Ganesh. He f u l l with worries, but s t i l l he thinking thinking a l l the time.' Ganesh would have liked his thoughts to be deep and i t disturbed him that they were simple things, concerned with passing t r i f l e s . He began to fee l a l i t t l e strange and feared he was going mad. He knew the Fourways people, and they knew him and liked him, but now he f e l t cut off from them, (mm,32) This i s not simply the ploy of indolence. Though one cannot deny that much of Ganssh's story i s f a r c i c a l , i s grotesque, he nevertheless experiences some-thing of the metaphysical anxiety of the Absurd Man. Meanwhile another level of Absurdity enters the story of Ganesh, that of the disparity between potential and actual i n the realm of j u s t i c e — t h i s time perceived by the narrator. For while Ganesh, through the worst kind of charlatanism and p o l i t i c a l hyprocisy, becomes an M.B.E., Indarsingh, the man of honourable brilliance who fights a recognizably "clean" p o l i t i c a l campaign, receives desserts, of much less sweetness: he.is merely elected in Ganesh1s old ward. Trinidad, the narrator implies, cannot sustain legitimacy, cannot sus-tain justice* We are reminded of Naipaul's later comment i n The Middle  Passage: "For talent, a f u t i l i t y , the Trinidadian substituted intrigue" (MP, AA)• This i s not to deny Ganesh brilliance, but his brilliance i s of a particularly 21 corrupt variety. In his reflection at the very beginning of the book, and through a display of subtle irony, the narrator suggests the truth behind the outwardly illustrious l i f e of Ganesh, the disparity between what deserves and what gains reward (" . . . when Ganesh had won the fame and fortune he deserved so well" mm,18); and i t is suggested as well that Ganesh's story may be pe-culiar neither to himself nor to Trinidad ("the history of Ganesh is,, in a way, the history of our times." mm,18), and that through suppression of his "autobiography" Ganesh himself may have become ashamed of his own unscrupu-lousness: Nineteen forty-six was the turning-point of Ganesh1s career; and, as i f to underline the fact, in that year he published his autobiography, The Years of Guilt (Ganesh Publishing Co. Ltd., Port of Spain. $2.4.0). The book, variously described as a spiritual thriller and a metaphysical whodunit, had a con-siderable success of esteem in Central America and the Caribbean. Ganesh, however, confessed that the autobiography was a mistake. So, in the very year of publication i t was suppressed and the Ganesh Publishing Company itself wound up. (mm,18) In recognizing the autobiography to be a mistake i t would seem that G. Ramsay Muir, Esq., M.B.E.jmight be rather anxious to forget Ganesh Ramsumair in more than name. Evidence of society being otherwise than i t ought, of man feeling apart from the rest of the world, finds further instance in Naipaul's other early works, in the career of Pat Harbans in The Suffrage of Elvira f in the experiences of various of the characters in Miguel Street and in most of even the earliest stories of A Elag on the Island. In virtually a l l of these "wild high spirits""''''" are tempered by the serious. In A Flag on the Island, though one would agree that some of the stories appear to have been written in the purest frivolity ("The Night Watchman's Occurrence Book" and "The Perfect Tenants" numbering among these), they are in a minority. Gold Teeth's 22 religious commodiousness, for example, is not as arbitrary as i t would f i r s t appear:she prays to every available deity in the desire to alter her childless-condition, and, later, to impede the death of her husband. In "The Raffle" too, behind the burlesque of the useless goat lurk tyranny and cruelty. Mr. Hinds not only forces the boys to pay for their obligatory "private lessons", but, Jiaking advantage of a prerogative of Trinidad schoolteachers, mercilessly beats them. And in "A, Christmas Story" the samtimonious schoolmaster lives; a l i f e of perpetual adversity: his decision to adopt the Presbyterian faith (he was bom a Hindu) has cut him off from the comfort of his familyj his de-cision to teach has bestowed upon him harshly straitened c ire urns tances!, made a l l the more difficult to bear because of the success of his Hindu cousin and rivalj when he is at last happily married and has a son to raise he is forced into early retirement; and, until the very end, i t appears that his special project of the managing of a new school will bring lasting shame and disgrace. The world is a foreign and a trying place for Randolph:; It seemed then that like those pilgrims, whose enthusiasm I admire but cannot share, I was advancing towards my goal by taking two steps forward and one step back, though in my case a likelier simile might be that I was taking one step forward and one step back. (Flag,43-44) Worst of a l l is the desertion of Randolph's wife and son in the midst of his troubles. Not wishing to share his impending dishonour, they are unaware that i t has resulted from his very wish to please them. But trying as the world is to Randolph i t is equally hostile, equally foreign to the needs of the various inhabitants of a fictional back-street in Port of Spain. Behind the Rabelaisian fun of the sketches of Miguel Street (written before The Mystic Masseur, though not published until later) one again finds instance of the Absurd as', "'anguish!' The inhabitants of this 23 Port of Spain " s k i d row" are almost a l l of them " f a i l u r e s . " Sometimes freedom i s denied: Bogart and Eddoes, f o r example, men-about-town, f i n d themselves t i e d to m a r i t a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . Sometimes public recognition i s thwarted: E l i a s , hopeful of becoming a doctor, ends up d r i v i n g a scavenging c a r t : and Morgan, wishing h i s fireworks to achieve renown, receives fame not as a "pyrotechnicist" but as a "pyromaniac." Others s u f f e r the shame of f a i l i n g to achieve status i n the s t r e e t , or of hav-ing the fraudulence of t h e i r status exposed, the l a t t e r being the f a t e of Big Foot, the reputed b u l l y , who i s discovered to be a f r a i d of a small dog and a c t u a l l y gives way to tears upon defeat i n the boxing r i n g . S t i l l others i n Miguel Street have t h e i r i l l u s i o n s of sentiment destroyed f o r them. Edward, who marries a white woman from the American base, f i n d s that before long she leaves him—and though she was apparently unable to have a c h i l d by him, she nevertheless bears a c h i l d f o r the man with whom she has. run away. Hat, who also devotes himself to a woman, f i n d s that she too deserts him; and when he feats her (k by-no-means-unusual circum-stance i n the T r i n i d a d i a n socie t y Naipaul portrays) he i s rewarded with a three-year prison term. Mrs. Herreira, who leaves her doctor-husband f o r alcoholic Toni, supposing h e r s e l f to be i n lave with the l a t t e r , decides to return to her husband when she i s nearly k i l l e d by beatings. And the ambience of romance i s also responsible f o r the t r a g i c consciousness of Laura. For although Laura i s apparently unperturbed by having eight c h i l d r e n by seven d i f f e r e n t men ("This thing happening again, but you get used to i t a f t e r the f i r s t three, four times. Is a damn nuisance, though." MSt,1l07), and by supporting them, as i t i s implied, by p r o s t i t u -t i o n , yet when herseldest daughter Lorna comes home to announce that she too, i s pregnant, the "void" suddenly becomes eloquent: 24 I heard the shreik that Laura gave. And for the f i r s t time I heard Laura crying. It wasn t ordinary crying. She seemed to be crying a l l the cry she had saved up since she was born; a l l the cry she had tried to cover up with her laughter. I have heard people cry at funerals, but there is a lot of showing-off in their crying. Laura's crying that night was the most terrible thing I had heard. It made me feel that the world was a stupid, sad place, and I almost began crying with Laura. (MSt,115-116) Laura's cry is not only for the recognition of the difficulty of her own l i f e ; i t is also for the knowledge that her daughter's l i f e shall be equally unhappy. Thus when Lorna drowns (perhaps not by accident) Laura's response is that i t is "better that way" (MSt,117), Unhappiness also arises in Miguel Street in the realm of human isola-tion. B. Wordsworth, for example—"B" for "Black," as he tails us, "White" Wordsworth being his "brother" (MSt,57-58)—is a man truly set apart. Alone any-where, the artist is even more alone on an island like Trinidad. Port of Spain is scarcely ready to honour, or even to understand, a man who, rather than drinking, gambling, or whoring, spends his most happy hours in the study of nature and in creating "one line a month" (MSt,62). He is unable to sell his poetry ("on this paper is the greatest poem about mothers and I'm going to sell i t to you at a bargain price. For four cents"MSt,58), and is forced to make a living by singing calypsos in carnival season. His will be the t ragedy, even more poignant for the poet, of feeling he has failed to leave a mark of his 12 presence in the world. Walking down the poet's street, one year after his death, the narrator finds no sign of his house. It has been palled down, and the trees cut, to be replaced by brick and concrete. "It was," comments the narrator, "just as though B. Wordsworth had never existed." (MSt,65). And Absurd Discovery of the unimportance of man, of the disparity between the nos-talgia to be necessary and man's actual insignificance,is further revealed by 25 the narrator's forgetting Hat during the latter s three years in j a i l (MSt, 213), and by the unhappy discovery of his own unimportance. At a party given for him on the eve of his departure for England the narrator finds that "people came in looking sad and telling me how much they were going to miss me, and then they forgot about me and attended to the serious business of eating and drinking" (MSt,219). When his plane is late, allowing him to return to the street for a few hours, he is again aware of his insignificance; Back in Miguel Street the f i r s t person I saw was Hat. He was strolling flat-footedly back from the Cafe, with a paper under his arm. I waved and shouted at him. All he said was, 'I thought you was in the air by this time.1 I was disappointed. Not only by Hat's cool reception. Disappointed because although I had been away, destined to be gone for good, everything was going on just as before, with nothing to indicate my absence. (MSt,222) If the high spirits of Miguel Street find themselves strongly tempered by the serious, i f indeed the grotesque is only an exaggeration of one of the elements of Absurd Confrontation, one finds that after Miguel Street there is even less of this "heightening" for purposes of laughter. The Suffrage of Elvira already contains less levity than The Mystic Masseur and Miguel Street—nor does i t lack the "serious realistic indictment of a colonial 13 society" of which i t has at times been accused. The exercising of "democracy" in Elvira is more than amusingj in indicating the success of ignorance, super-stition and opportunism, i t is a telling account of the disparity between the desirable and the actual: buffoonery has already become difficult to laugh at. When Pat Harbans begins his election campaign he is a fairly honest individual. Yet at the same time he realizes that this election will not be like the last one (which was also the fi r s t general election in Trinidad), for 26 already people have begun "to see the possibilities,' 1 (Elvira, 12)» The influ-ential men of the town must be approached, bribed. In order to win the Muslim votes, Harbans buys Baksh (the Muslim leader) a loudspeaker-; van and sets up his son Foam as his campaign manager; in order to win the Hindu section, Harbans half-promises that his son shall marry the daughter of Chittaranjan, the Hindu leader; and to win the Spanish element, superstition is allowed to be put into play. From the early slogans of Foam ("Vote Harbans or die 111 Elvira,4-3) to Harbans1 angry "Elviral You is a bitchl" (Elvira,168) the reader agrees that democracy—or shall we say democracy in El v i r a — i s a"stupid thing!?1" (Elvira,l6l) 0 But the election in Elvira is more than stupid. It serves both to re-veal the disparity between democratic ideal and practise and to comment upon the isolation of man. Harbans is anything but a "hero" in the ordinary sense. As Hena Maes-Jelinek has noted, although he is a privileged man according to Trinidadian standards, he is nevertheless afraid ."of everything and everybody. """"^  When we first see him he is already shy about his election posters (Elvira,7); he is apologetic to the two Jehovah's Witnesses whom he nearly runs down, though the fault was theirs,. (Elvira, S) j his voice i t s e l f is an ingratiating "coo": (Elvira,9 ) ; he is embarrassed and fawning with the Bakshes (Elvira, 15-17);. and he is shy with Chittaranjan,- (Elvira,30);, In fact there seems to be no-one of whom Harbans is not afraid and resentful: 'What happen, Mr. Harbans?' Foam asked. Harbans locked his fingers. 'Can't understand i t , Foam. Can't understand i t . I is a old old man. Why everybody down against me?' (Elvira ,4-9) Why everyone is "down against" Harbans is pitifully obvious. There is no better time for opportunism in Elvira than during this election. If Harbans is to win he must, like Roderigo, put money in his purse. His is the unhappiness of 27 knowing that he has no true friends, no truly faithful support. He does win the election, however, far outdistancing the other candidate, "Preacher," who had conducted an honest campaign. And in the end he has further triumph: after his success he returns to Elvira only once, haughty and in a new Jaguar. He no longer "coos" (was his modesty, after a l l , a pretense?), and he need no longer accept Chittaranjan's daughter for his son. Though Naipaul ends The  Suffrage of Elvira on a note of frivolity ("So, Harbans won the election, and the insurance company lost a Jaguar. Chittaranjan lost a son-in-law" etc. Elvira, 24.0), such levity is rather out of place. The election has been gro-tesque from beginning to end, but there has been l i t t l e to amuse. The des-truction of possibility, the corruption both of a society as a whole and of one man within i t who seemed, at the beginning, to possess something of honesty and concern suggests a world hostile both to justice and to political integrity. 15 A House for Mr. Biswas. Naipaul's best known and generally most highly thought of work, again reveals a world in which "ought oughts are ought" (House,41) is characteristic of more than arithmetic, a world in which the chief character is nothing i f not the quintessential m i s f i t — the latter being nicely underlined by the narrator's reference to him, even as a child, as "Mr. Biswas." Already as a baby, Mr. Biswas is the Outsider, born inauspiciously six-fingered and "in the wrong way" (House,15), suggesting that he will be a lecher, a spendthrift, and a liar, that he will have an unlucky sneeze, and that, figuratively speaking, he will "eat up his mother and father" (House, 16-17).. The worst of these portents soon proves correct when Biswas indirectly causes the drowning of his father. Because of subsequent unneighbourly threats his mother, Bipti, sells their property and moves to 2 8 the town of Pagotes, where the family lives on the bounty of a relative i n a small back lane. It is from this time that we become aware of Biswas' sens i b i l i t y of apartness: And so Mr. Biswas came to leave the only house to which he had some right. For the next thirty-five years he was to be a wanderer with no place he could c a l l his own, with no family except that which he was to attempt to create out of the engulfing world of the Tulsis. For with his mother's parents dead, his father dead, his brothers on the estate at F e l i c i t y , Dehuti [a sister"] as a servant i n Tara's house, and himself rapidly growing away from B i p t i who, broken, became increasingly useless and impenetrable, i t seemed to him that he was really quite alone. (House, 37-38) When Biswas later ineffectually attempts to re-locate his f i r s t home, his Absurd Discovery of the unimportance of man reminds us of the earlier unhappy discovery of the narrator of Miguel Street: like the young boy looking in vain for the home of B. Wordsworth, Biswas too, can never after-wards ascertain where his father's hut had stood. Biswas' moving away from his f i r s t home at a very young age i s a major cause for his subsequent feelings of isolation, and is a l s o — s i g n i -ficantly—germane to his compulsion to secure his own permanent domicile. But this i s shared by another important factor: the lack of affection of Bi p t i for her children. The years i n the "trace," the back lane, were years of physical squalor and emotional void: It would have pained Mr. Biswas i f anyone from the school saw where he lived, i n one room of a mud hut i n the back trace. He was not happy there and even after five years considered i t a temporary arrangement. Most of the people in the hut remained strangers, and his relations with Bip t i were unsatisfying because she was shy of showing him affection i n a house of strangers* More and more, too, she bewailed her Fate; when she did this he f e l t useless and dispirited and, instead of 29 comforting her, went to look for Alec. Occasionally she had ineffectual fits of temper, quarrelled with Tara and muttered for days, threatening, whenever there was anyone to hear, that she would leave and get a job with the road-gang, where women were needed to carry stones in baskets on their head's?. Continually, when he was with her, Mr. Biswas had to struggle against anger and depression. (House,UU-U5) Biswas' being sent away as a child to study to be a pandit, and later to work in a rum-shop, also made i t impossible for the ideal of "home" to be otherwise than foreign. And when he returns to Bipti after mishaps with these occupa-tions, instead of being pleased to see him again, she is only alarmed and reproves him for being "ungrateful -" (House,52)»Later, after he is married and visits her at Christmas, he finds her equally gloomy, s t i l l lacking in demonstrations of affection. Indeed, i t is not until the latter days of his l i f e that Biswas sees anything to care for in his mother. Absurd Discovery, recognition both of man's apartness from man and of the difficulty of actualizing nostalgia in the face of an irrational world, reaches its zenith after Biswas is married. Though Biswas as a young man dreams of freedom and does in fact enjoy freedom for a time (that time during which he refuses to marry, conducts a bus, paints signs and tries debauchery. House,71-72), freedom is short-lived. He is s t i l l very young when he goes to paint signs for the Tulsis, writes a note of admiration to one of the daughters, and is immediately pressured into marriage with her.. Life, hence-forth, becomes a form of confinement: anything which manifests individuality or difference creates hostility. Among the children individuality is rewarded with a beatingj and strict fealty must be paid by a l l to the heads of the family, Mrs. Tulsi and Seth. New members, such as Biswas, are chosen to f u l -f i l l a useful function. Hanuman House, as Gordon Rohlehr has noted, operates like a system of slavery: 30 On closer examination, Hanuman House reveals i t s e l f not as a coherent reconstruction of the clan, but as a slave society, erected by Mrs. Tulsi and Seth who need workers to help rebuild their tottering empire. They therefore exploit the homelessness and poverty of their fellow-Hindus, and reconstruct a mockery of the clan v/hich functions only because they have so completely grasped the psychology of a slave system. Like the West Indies, Hanuman House i s constructed of a vast number of disparate families, gratuitously brought together by the economic need of a "high-caste" minority. Men are necessary here only as husbands for the Tulsi daughters and labourers on the Tulsi estates^To accept Hanuman House i s to acquiesce in one's slavery. The Tulsis have not done Biswas a favour by "adopting" him: he now finds 17 himself "pitted against a whole way of l i f e , " Mrs. Tulsi's heavily-braceleted arms themselves being indicative of oppressive restraint and impediment to movement."""^  Because Biswas i s an id e a l i s t i c individual, a paddler of his own canoe (House, 96), because he has had dreams of a world about to yield "sweetness and romance" (House, 73), he i s b i t t e r l y resentful of the Tulsi regime and of his veritable imprisonment. Feelings of being trapped come as early as the day of his marriage when, with mention neither of dowry, house or job, and with the expectation that he w i l l become a Tulsi, he takes on caution: Now he thought of escape. To leave the way clear for that he thought i t important to avoid the f i n a l commitment. He didn't embrace or touch her This wife ShamaJ . He wouldn't have known, besides, how to begin, with someone who had not spoken a word to him, and whom he s t i l l saw with the mocking smile she had given that morning i n the store. Not wishing to be tempted, he didn't look at her, and was relieved when she l e f t the room. He spent the rest of the day imprisoned where he was, listening to the noises of the house. (House, 87) Yet married he remains: "nothing now, except death, could change that,," (House, 90).. He w i l l blame the Tulsis throughout his l i f e for "imprisoning" 31 him; and his wife's pregnancies w i l l cause further anxiety: At Easter he learned that Shama was pregnant for the fourth time. One child claimed; one s t i l l hostile; one unknown. And now another. Trapl, The future he feared was upon him. He was f a l l i n g into the void, and that terror, known only in dreams, was with him as he lay awake at nights. (House,204.) Except for th9 very end of his l i f e Biswas' feelings of confinement wiDi re-main with him; nor are these feelings lessoned with his various moves. The years in The Chase bring boredom and f u t i l i t y (House,I63) and l i t t l e actual freedom. As A.C. Derrick points out, the roads from The Chase go to villages which are just like The Chase, or to ramshackle towns. S t i l l in the shop in The Chase are reminders of the past owner's f u t i l e efforts, and the entire shop has an atmosphere of decay and darkness. 7 The subsequent move to the barracks, when Biswas becomes a "driver" on one of the Tulsi estates, becomes a move for the worse, for the barracks permit only one room to a family, and shelter twelve families i n one long room divided by partitions;, into twelve. And so Mr. Biswas decides that he must build himself a house— but the house (the f i r s t house) that he builds i s demolished by the wind and the rain even before i t is finished. A move to one of Mrs. Tulsi's houses in Port of Spain in which Biswas and his family are given two rooms works out well un t i l a Tulsi son returns home from studies abroad and exercises his authority over the home; and a stay in a house in the country brings l i t t l e more promise, the family now being reduced to one room. Even in the end,, when Biswas does have his own home at last, he finds he has escaped his wife's family only to enslave himself to his own, his house being deeply mortgaged to his uncle. Nor could Biswas enjoy his home in the f u l l sense 3 2 of the word were i t not mortgaged: for he is shortly to die. The failure to achieve an independent l i f e style until i t i s too late i s only one of the disappointments in the history of Mohun Biswas. Personal relationships, too, seem doomed. His relationship with his mother was damaging-l y u n f u l f i l l i n g j and his marriage too—at least at f i r s t — only further® his sense of isolation. Now he can expect neither sympathy nor understanding from his family ("there was no one in Pagotes he could talk to, for pure shame had kept him from t e l l i n g Tara or Bipti or Alec." House,86), and he suddenly finds himself in a new household of formidable foreignness ("at Hanuman House, in the press of daughters, sons-in-law, and children, he began to feel lost, unimportant, and even frightened. No one particularly noticed him." House,86-87), married to a g i r l who is a veritable stranger. And Biswas has not been without dreams of love: for although "love was something he was embarrassed to think about" and although he mocked with his peers, "secretly he believed " (House,72)eIt was in this mood of expectation, of believing, that he wrote his note to Shama. But there "could be no romance at Hanuman Houseo" (House,84)0Among the Tulsis one's very name is forgotten, one's children conceived amid squalor, possibly in an absence of privacy (one thinks of the long room in which several families are stationed) and without affection: They spent their last two years at The Chase in this state of mutual hos t i l i t y ; at peace only in Hanuman House. She became pregnant for the third time. 'Another one for the monkey house.' he said, passing his hands over her belly. (House,173) It w i l l be many years before Biswas w i l l feel any deep attachment for his wife, and his relationship with his children remains for the most a cool one. Savi and Anand are the only children of the four he really knows—and while 33 he develops a deep fondness for the latter, he can never be sure of him. While he has Anand stay with him in The Chase his most oppressive fear comes to be that he will leave; and at the last, when he is dying and Anand1s sympathy and anger would have meant so much to him Anand not only fails to return home, but actually neglects to reply to his father's letter. Biswas' l i f e is wrought with every other sort of frustration, every other imaginable contradiction between what might have been and what i s : o i l is discovered on his father's property after i t has been sold; his escape stories of the "fresh:, tender, unkissed and barren"girl—and which he is never able to finish—are completely unlike his own experiences with woman-hood; ryeeven Christmases turn out to be "only a series of anticipations." (House,193)4 Though Biswas "never ceased to feel that some nobler purpose awaited him. "; (House,I64.), he comes to suspect that although his philosophical books (notably/ Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus) give him solace, they are nonetheless irrelevant to his situation. A House for Mr. Biswas. one agrees, is a modern account of the El Dorado quest, in which adventure is largely consummated in solitude, failure, u Absurd Discovery will ultimately be responsible for the breakdown which occurs to Biswas when, serving as a driver on a Tulsi estate, he is living alone in a barrack room. Temporarily abandoned by Sharaa and their children, he is suddenly aware, like Camus' Absurd Man, of the Otherness of objects. The "stage set" suddenly collapses: He was rocking hard on the creaking board on night when he thought of the power of the rockers to grind and crush and in f l i c t pain, on his hands and toes and the tenderer parts of his body. He rose at once in agony, covering his groin with his hands, sucking hard on his teeth, listening to the chair as, rocking, i t moved sideways along the cambered plank. The chair f e l l silent. He looked away from 34 it:.. On the wall he saw a n a i l that could puncture his eye. The window could trap and mangle. So could the door. Every leg of the green table could press and crush. The castors of the dressingtable. The drawers. He lay face down on the bed', not wanting to see. (House,206) For Biswas, as for the Absurd Man, the void becomes eloquent. The mechanical, the every-day is questioned. Like Sartre's Roquentin in Nausea ("I have no 21 taste for work any longer, I can do nothing more except wait for the n£ght" ) Biswas appraises his existence as meaningless: Every morning the period of l u c i d i t y lessoned. The bed-sheet, examined every morning, always tes t i f i e d to a tormented night. Between the beginning of a routine action and the questioning the time of calm grew less. Between the meeting of a familiar person and the questioning there was less and less of ease. Until there was no lucidity at a l l , and a l l action was i r -revelant and f u t i l e . (House,243) When word arrives that Shama is coning with the children to v i s i t (she had temporarily gone back to Hanuman House, this being one of their periods of estrangement) Biswas spends his time envisioning how he shall k i l l them, or shall at least k i l l himself and the children. When they actually arrive these designs are transformed to resignation and fatigue, but he cannot bear to be touched by any of them, and finds Shama.'-s latest pregnancy grotesque. A subsequent long rest at Hanuman House relieves him from his i n a b i l i t y to function (incidentally engendering a grudging appreciation for the warmth of activity of the swarming household) but can do nothing to alleviate a fundamental uneasiness: He had controlled his disgust and! fear when the men had come for him. He was glad he had. Surrender had removed the world of damp walls and paper covered walls, of hot sun and driving rain, and had brought him this: this worldless room, this nothingness. As the hours passed he found he could piece together recent happenings, and he marvelled that he had survived the horror. More and more frequently he forgot fear and questioning; sometimes, for 35 as much as a minute or so, he was unable, even when he tried, to re-enter fully the state of mind he had lived through. There remained an unease, which did not seem real or actual and was more like an indistinct, c hilling memory of horror. (Hous e,269-270) Indistinct though horror may 3eem, feelings of uselessness, frustration, apartness, plague Biswas throughout his life.. Even when he has the house on Sikkim Street, he has his mortgage. A House for Mr. Biswas remains the story of a sensitive creature in an insensitive world; of man caught by circumstance. Feelings of uselessness, frustration, apartness plague a l l of Naipaul's characters, but Absurd Discovery of inevitable doom is particularly- rife to Richard Stone of Mr. Stone and the Knights' Companion " "A day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty," says Camus. "Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He ;takes his place in i t . He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to the end. He belongs to time, and by the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy-*" (Sis,,ll)« Man is never so alone as in the knowledge of death. When we fi r s t meet Stone, however, he is not yet aware of time ass an enemy. His is a l i f e of quiet contentment—of, like his name itself, imper-turbability. He is aware that he is growing old (it seems to Stone that both he and his friend Tomlinson are "past the time for useful contacts." Stone, l l ) but his l i f e is so ordered, so serene, that he finds Time to be more a friend than otherwise: He was in the habit in odd moments of solitude of writing out neatly tabulated accounts of his career such as might have been submitted to a prospective employer; and i t was always a marvel to him that the years had gone on, had rolled 3 6 by so smoothly, that in spite of setbacks and alarms his l i f e had arranged itself with a neatness and order of which the boy of seventeen had never dreamed. (Stone, 19) When the book opens Stone is living in the past rather than the present ("the present was flavorless." Stone,20), and the past brings "solidity, continuity and flow,," (Stone,20)»The number of his assistant's outfits, the years Miss Millington has been with him, the age of his briefcase, his memories of his visits to his sister Olive—all of these reflections Stone stacks away as neatly as he does Olive's fruit-cake bowls. Yet beneath even this placidity steal shades of unease. Already in the fi r s t paragraph of the book "hostile strangeness" is suggested when S£one is unable to prevent the "radiation of fine pain" spreading throughout his body at the feel or sight of cats,, (Stone, 5)» Hi3 fantasies of moving pave-ments and of flying also suggest an inability to cope with, or at least a distaste for, the realities of the world. Then at a dinner party among friends Stone comes to consider that l i f e should be more than "something to be moved through,." (Stone, 18), He leaves the party "overcome" by feelings of waste. The next day, standing "at the edge of the boisterous, beery crowd" (Stone,25) as he has his usual lunchtime glass of Guinness, Stone begins to suspect that he is standing at the edge of l i f e i t s e l f — a t the edge, not only of true happiness, but also at the edge of the years which have been allotted to him. His uneasiness is brought into focus by a new London Transport poster which urges those "who doubt the coming of Spring" to make a trip into Englandts countryside. Suddenly there is a "collapse of the stage set." The world to Stone, as to Camus' Absurd Man, becomes abruptly unfamiliar and frightening, carrying with i t a suggestion of the final abyss: 37 Those who doubt the coming of Spring: the words magnified and gave a focus to his uneasiness. They recalled a moment —then, memory and fear quickening, he saw that they recalled several moments, which had multiplied during the last year — o f unease, unsettlement: a fleeting scene in a film, a remark in the office, an item in the newspaper, one of his stray thoughts: moments he had thought buried, for they formed no part of the pattern of his l i f e , but which now, through a l l the mechanical actions and unseen sights of the familiar journey home, rose revivified one after the other, to be; examined, discarded, taken up again. (Stone,25) Feelings of doubt, awareness of decay, consciousness of man's inevitable isolation, become even stronger after Stone's marriage to Mrs. Springer— ironically, since the marriage would have been formed partially to thwart the void, her name itself being significant. Stone cannot be deluded into believing he is s t i l l in the green of his days even on his wedding night, for the sight of Margaret's teeth (and of his own) in the bathroom searyest to stab him with a "prick of the sharpest fear," (Stone„35)» Nor does their honeymoon,, a few weeks later, do anything but increase the gloom. Not only does Stone experience a hallucinatory moment in the wastes of Cornwall which is to him ^an experience of nothingness, an experience of death,," (Stone,64-)_>but, only eighteen months from retirement himself, he witnesses the retirement of another man being transformed into a death-in-life that he realizes could easily happen to himself. Awareness of impending doom by the experiences in Cornwall, coupled with the realization that his own l i f e stands to be smothered by the dominance —however kindly—of women, inspires Stone to conceive the idea of the Knights Companion, a society that is to perpetuate the fellowship of retired members of the firm Stone works for, by having members visit one another, and by holding various social functions. But even the Knights' Companion fails to finally stifle recurring thoughts; of mutability. Indeed, i t is an ever-present reminder. And death and decay make their appearance in increasingly numerous other forms: 38-the seedlings which Stone and Margaret plant are sold to them by "very old and despairing" men (Stone,L44); the Midgeleys next door decide to put away their cat because, although the children liked him when he was a kitten, they no longer care for him now (Stone,I4I); the employment of Miss Millington, Stone's aged servant, has to be terminated; and Toni Tomlinson dies,, Stone's oldest: and apparently only male fr i e n d . Stone, as some of the characters in the earlier stories of A Flag on the Island (Sheila and her husband in "The Mourners," Mrs. Cooksey in "Greenie and Yellow," and Hari in "The Heart": who,. with their respective losses of a child, a bird and a dog a l l confront the suddenness and f i n a l i t y of death) discovers that the order of the universe to which he had sought to a l l y himself, had once f e l t so comfortable with, i s aliens (Stone,159)» But feelings of alienation are engendered by more than awareness of the process of ageing. They also grow out of the sensibility of disparity between nostalgia and existence in the realm of personal contact. Personal relationships in Stone's world—as in the worlds of vir t u a l l y a l l of Naipaul's characters— are often less than satisfactory. Stone's marriage i t s e l f causes him not a l i t t l e anxiety. On his wedding night, when he discovers that he w i l l henceforth be required to assume the roles attached to a man and husband he feels, l i k e Biswas, imprisoned. He wishes that an imagined prowler "would come in and batter them both to death and release,""' (Stone,37); and he feels forever surrounded by women, being a f r a M that Margaret's own kindness w i l l s t i f l e . In the end, however, Stone's relationship with Margaret remains the happiest one of the l o t : the man in Cornwall, "kept" by his women, fares much worse; Whymper's relationships with his actress-mistress, and later with Stone's niece, are equally shabby; and after Tomlinson's death his wife Grace seems to succeed a l l too well in her efforts to forget. 39; But Absurd Discovery of the disparity between ideal and actual is most brilliantly illuminated in the l i f e of Stone through his involvement with the Knights Companion. Though the scheme was conceived by Stone simply in order to protect the old, to the young P.R.O.. assigned to him i t must be "licked into shape"—meaning that i t must benefit the firm, spread the glory of the firm. Eventually i t is not the idea behind the scheme that acMevess distinction, but the public relations aspect of i t . In the end Stone finds that other people have made his idea their property, are "riding to success on his backs" (Stone,108). Both the true creator and the pain out of which the; plan was conceived are ignored! Mr. Stone could no longer hide from himself his displeasure at finding their names, Whymper and Stone, coupled so fre-quently. Always in such items in the house magazine i t was Whymper who was quoted, so t hat over the months i t had begun to appear that Whymper was the Unit. His own contribution, his passion and anguish had gone for nothing, had gone to magnify Whymper. Out of his l i f e had come the one idea; for this single creation his li f e had been changed for good, perhaps destroyed. And i t had gone to magnify Whymper, young Whymper, whose boast was that he made nothing. (Stone,108) Soon in fact Whymper has come to be known as the instigator of the entire program, the "man behind the energetic and resourceful promotion," (Stone,155)* Stone is left feeling that " a l l action, a l l creation was a betrayal of feeling and truth," that "nothing that came out of the heart, nothing that was pure ought to 1B exposed-"' (Stone,L49)»Success, when i t comes, is short-lived, destruction appearing more the order of things than creation: All that mattered was man's own frailty and corruptibility . . . so much he had seen before. But now he saw, too, that i t was not by creation that man demonstrated his power and defied this hostile order, but by destruction. By damning the river, by destroying the mountain, by so scarring the face of the earth that Nature's attempt to reassert herself • became a mockery. (Stone,158-159) AO Stone's discovery is that of the Absurd Man: much of l i f e is accidental and outside ^an's control; things will exist without him; success, however glitteringjis chequered with shade. In the experiences of Stone one realizes that the author sees Absurdity not as a condition exclusive to the West Indies, but as a phenomenon having universal-implication. In his next work chronologically, the title-story of A Flag on the Island. Absurdity is described largely through the eyes of another non-West Indian, though the story does occur in the West Indies. Personal relationships in this work, perhaps because the requirements were for "much sex and dialogue"' (it was written for a film company) are particu-larly grotesque% Much of Frank's motivation for return to the island (he is ai American formerly attached to a military base there) seems to be a search for clandestine sex: immediately upon embarkation he asks the tourist guide 'fl for directions to the best whorehouse in town; persistent undertones of homo-sexuality occur in his conversations with two of the other visitors; he breaks up a British Council lecture when, in a drunken stupor, he mistakes the lecturer for a male stripper; and much of his time is spent in whorehouses, or with his old friend Selma, with whom he has unsatisfactory sexual relations. "Sex," he concludes, "is a hideous thing." (Flag,230)« Unsatisfactory (or should one say "appalling") personal relationships have not come to Frank late in l i f e , however. When he had first come to the island, one American among many on the base, he was already "looking for fun" by such methods as asking an innocent schoolboy i f his sister indulged in sexual intercourse. (Flag,170)» And when he does come to care for someone he resents her refusal to exercise any rights of possession over him. The pleasures Frank seeks "quickly turn to a distressing-satisfying endurance test, would end by being pain," (Flag,153)o But conflict between nostalgia and reality in A Flag on the Island is by no means limited to Frank's relationships. The story is also one of the contradictions between hopeful possibility of a newly independent country and grotesque reliance on approbation from abroad, as illustrated in the activities of the writer with the significant appellation "Blackwhite.1 n Though native to the island, Blackwhite writes highly romanticized (and financially successful) accounts of a "Lady Theresa Phillips of Shropshire." When he doe3 wish to write about a black man falling in love with a black woman, he is roundly scorned. In seeking to comply with demands (largely foreign) for a "native" culture, he hangs a sign in front of his house pro-claiming: "Patois taught here" (Flag,205)—yet within that same house are walls hung with coloured drawings of the English countryside, with photo-graphs of Churchill and Roosevelt. Awareness of an unkind, irrational world seems central to most of those who have anything to do with this island. For Blackwhite the island "doesn't exist"1 (Flagp.57)j for Henry, the brothel-keeper, "the damn world don't end. And we don't dead at the right time" (Flag,213); for Selma, as for Frank, sex is "hideous"; and even the millionaire tourist finds i t impossible to exercise wise philanthropy. For Frank himself disillusionment has set in with more than sex: he discovers the "washing away of the world by time.," (Flag, 158)^ that l i f e is merely an "accomodation to one's fate.-" (Flag, 235),The question Frank asks of the island is the question asked by Eliot, the question of Beckett:. 'What do you people do?' 'What do you mean, do?' 'What do you people do when you are doing nothing? Why do you keep on?' (Flag,171) For Frank, but not for Frank alone, l i f e on the island consists: of the "courage of futility, the fut i l i t y of courage, the empty total response,," (Flag,233)t 42 Hardly a story of joie de vivre. A Flag on the Island, Noi*- are 25' liaipaul's two most recent works of f i c t i o n any more so: The Mimic Men again stresses the divorce between the po s s i b i l i t i e s consequent upon p o l i t i c a l independence and the actual myopia of the island community, this time within 26' the perspective of the polit i c i a n ; and the latest work, In a Free State, appears the most desolate of a l l , spreading i t s despair no longer within the confines of the 'Jest Indies or London, but throughout, now, half the world. Ranjit Kripalsingh (alias Ralph Singh) of The Mimic Men, is a man who has come to see the island of Isabella as a land of the grotesque, a land in which mimicry is substituted for creativity, in which industrialization means the f i l l i n g of imported tins with imported products and then protecting the f i n a l product since i t is now more expensive than i f i t had been imported whole in the f i r s t place- (MM,258),It is a land where possi b i l i t y of achieving national stature carries within i t the same f u t i l i t y as i t had in A Flag on  the Island: And in Isabella, as in the Trinidad of The Mystic Masseur and The Suffrage of  Elvira, there can be l i t t l e actualizing of p o l i t i c a l idealism. Here p o l i t i c a l negotiation can only be carried out through a round of barbecue parties, p o l i t i c a l issues invariably becoming ra c i a l issues. Although his later re-nego-tiating of the island's bauxite contracts w i l l permit Singh to triumph, even •_• this i s abbreviated: coinciding with'the success of the new contract comes the disturbance of the Stockwell sugar estates. When Singh and his delegation v i s i t Lord Stockwell in London, proposing that the estates be nationalized, A3 they are only humiliated. Political failure is imminent, Singh's final impotence in the political arena being nicely underlined by his sexual im-potence with Stockwell's daughter. Failure for the colonial politician means extinction, however grand the trappings of power. Singh shall not long enjoy his Roman house with its swimming pool as impluvium. Like the denouement of the wife of the "political firebrand" whom Singh had previously met at a conference of non-aligned nations in a "glittering blur of parties and dinners" and later is seen as a shop-assistant in a London basement,. (MM, 11-12)^ Singh's own political career is over at the age of forty. As we see him writing his memoirs he. is living in an uninteresting London hotel hiding his face lest he be recognized by Ms former mistress, Lady Stella. The abbreviation of glory, the dereliction of possibility, has?become the substance of Singh's l i f e : A. sombre beginning [of' the memoirs]. It could not be otherwise. These are not the political memoirs which, at times during my political l i f e , I saw myself composedly writing in the evening of my days. A more than autobio-graphical work, the exposition of the malaise of our times pointed out and illuminated by personal experience and that knowledge of the possible which can come only from a closeness to power. This, though, is scarcely the book to which I can now address myself. True, I write with composure. But i t is not the composure I would have chosen . . . I know that return to my island and to my political l i f e is impossible. The pace of colonial events is quick, the turnover of leaders rapid. I have already been forgotten; and I know that the people who supplanted me are themselves about to be supplanted. My career is by no means unusual.., It falls into the pattern. The career of the colonial politician is short and ends brutally . . . there are no universities or City houses to refresh us and absorb) us after the heat of battle. (MM,10-11) As when Singh was a child and, in a heavy-•down-pour of rain, was disappointed that his house had not been washed away, allowing him "the chance of making a fresh start " (MM, 183 L now too, opportunity for a fresh beginning is denied. AA Only this time the discomfort and ridicule of disaster have not been spared: Singh's escape to London i s largely on behalf of his l i f e , his return, empty-handed, from Lord Stockwell having helped to create a massive case against him. His every private gesture has been misinterpreted, his very concern ("believing in the virtue of the smell of sweat" MM,250) distorted., His making of money, the r a c i a l exclusiveness of his "Crippleville" development, his marriage to an English g i r l , his relationships with two other white women, his advocacy of nationalization (of benefit mostly to Asians) have been taken as suggestive of public imposture, as a selling out of the r a c i a l unity stressed by the leadership of his party. But i f Singh i s disappointed by his inglorious end, he i s nevertheless not especially surprised. P o l i t i c s , he admits, remains l i t t l e more than a game—a game in which the p o l i t i c i a n learns, l i k e Richard Stone, that one must shield a l l which one knows to be good from the corruption of causes. Lack of success in Singh's p o l i t i c a l career i s paralleled by "ship-wreck" in his personal l i f e . Posturing as a dandy and a rake, Singh i s in fact anything but these: when he i s not actually impotent his sexual encoun-ters are s t i l l undignified, grotesque, or contain elements of cruelty. Even as a child the word "wife" held for him hidden terror, terror which, except for an early incestuous relationship with his cousin Sally, anticipates his later sexual experiences of triumph or humiliation; Singh i s rarely to know mutual acceptance in his acquaintance with sexuality. As a student in London, he lives in a seedy boarding house in which the attic i s occupied by the owner and his young mistress, the basement by an unmarried mother and her collection of friends of various stages of sexual degeneracy, who herself plays grotesque sexual games. As for Singh, a sexual diary grows from his experiences with women, but these experiences s t i l l become a question of "violation and s e l f -45 violation":: he is capable of becoming enraged at bumps and scratches and the smell of skin, and actually shouts at the possessors of these. His encounters become "less with individual bodies than with anonymous flesh"'' (MM,34)« Isolation i s heightened rather than relieved. It i s hardly surprising, then, that Singh's marriage should also be wrought with the grotesque, should appear, i n the end, not only an example of the "ill-advised" mixed marriage, but also as a "period in parentheses." (MM,3Ql)(Formed during a time of "breakdown and mental distress" (MM,49) for both Sandra and himself, the marriage provides l i t t l e more in the line of fulfillment than previous sexual escapades. The ceremony, held in a registry office, and from which Singh v i r t u a l l y flees, i s only the beginning of the grotesque: from the r i t u a l offering of the painted breasts to later exhibitionalism at parties on the island and realization of mutual i n f i d e l i t y , theirs is a relationship speaking mostly of "flesh and f u t i l i t y and our own imminent extinction." (MM,84)vNor w i l l other sexual encounters offer r e l i e f . With Lady Stella, or with a tortuously fat prostitute, the alike result i s distaste, impotence. Sex, like p o l i t i c a l power, proves false: How right our Aryan ancestors were to create gods. We seek sex, and are l e f t with two private bodies on a stained bed. The larger erotic dream, the god, has eluded us. (MM,22) But Absurdity is not exclusive to Singh in The Mimic Men. The naming of slaves after Anglo-Saxon kings, the disparity between the boy Hok's pre-tense to brilliance and his common, waddling mother, the son of the English clergyman refusing to acknowledge black boys in the street, people drowning in the middle of a beach p a r t y — a l l of this i s part of the Absurd metaphysic of the book. The achieving of harmony, i t would seem, is d i f f i c u l t indeed in 46 a society both racially and politically fragmented. Even Singh's idealistic father, who leaves his family in order to quietly found a religious and political movement on behalf of the people, is murdered. Despair, in this society, is "absolute" (MM,89). But Singh also suggests that i t is the "malaise" of the times (MM,lo). The sweep of In a Free State far supplants this suggestion in The  Mimic Men that Absurdity is universal. The stage set can collapse for m§n at any time, in any/ country of the world. To the protagonists of a l l the different sections of this work the search for "freedom" alike provides disappointment. Each seeker in turn, from the tramp on the Greek liner to Naipaul himself at Euxor, experiences something of fear or helplessness! there is a "great gulf fixed" between the desire for freedom and the possibility of attaining i t , the physical placelessness of the protagonists only serving to underline their spiritual disorientation. For the tramp of the "Prologue" who has been around the world "about a dozen times" (FSt,ll) and seems intent upon the supposed romance and independence of a root-less l i f e , glamour and real freedom are virtually denied. Gnawing at this man who would be self-sufficient is a harrowing contradictory need both to be alone and to relate his experiences! "He looked for company but need-ed solitudej he looked for attention, and at the same time wanted not to be noticed" (FSt,13). When his strange behaviour later incites his victimization in a cruel joke, he is reduced to the humiliation of tears. And tension between "freedom" and the denseness of the world is i l l u s -trated again in the fi r s t story, "One Out of Many." Once respected and happy in Bombay, working for a man of importance there, and having a host of friends, Santosh loses forever this quiet security when he 47 leaves with his employed for Washington. From a l i f e which he had considered settled he moves to a cit y where he i s unknown, unrespected, where every-thing from prices to the hubshi (the Negro race) to the revelation of American l i f e on the television screen i s unreal and frightening. "0 father, 1 Santosh asks, "What was this place I had come to?"' (FSt,,30) But when Santosh considers leaving Washington and returning to Bombay he finds this has be-come impossible. The happiness of the evening chats on the pavement was like the happiness of childhood: one could not return. When Santosh deserts his employer and finds that the latter does not, as was anticipated, ask to have him back, he becomes even more aware of his unimportance. Santosh's "freedom" has not provided unity, understanding; i t has, instead, merely awakened him to the h o s t i l i t y of the world, and reduced him to a form of nihilism: I could run away, hang myself, surrender, confess, hide. It didn't matter what I did, because I was alone. And I didn't know what I wanted to do. It was like the time when I f e l t my senses revive and I wanted to go out and enjoy and I found there was nothing to enjoy. (FSt,58) When Santosh marries the hubshi woman in a sudden desire to put an end to some of the strangeness of his new l i f e , he discovers that this too, f a i l s to alleviate his sense of homelessness. But Santosh furthers his own i s o l a -tion: he deliberately refuses to open his"mind and heart to the English language, to newspapers and radio and television, to the pictures of hubshi runners and boxers and musicians(FSt , 6 l)«He has accepted his isolation as irrevocable. " T e l l Me Who to K i l l " i s another story of exile, a story of a young man who"saw the world change" around him as he grew up.. (FSt ,7l)$ x^ ho grows even further apart by moving to London. The seeking of a "better" l i f e i n a 48 new country brings again an unhappy awareness of displacement and fu t i l i t y . Instead of enjoying a successful new start, the narrator is merely confused and lost: Everybody is brisk then upon arrival at the train station , and happy, no time for talk, because they can see where they are going. Since I came to this country that is something I can't do. I can't see where I am going. I can only wait to see what is going to turn up. (FSt,66) Unfortunately, nothing does turn up. Even the younger brother whom the narrator came to look after and whom he deeply loves, no longer needs him. And the overbearing patronage of his friend Frank compounds his despair. In the end he wishes at a l l cost to destroy the "enemy" which has so set him apart. But the enemy cannot be destroyed: i t is the human condition. In the last section, the ti t l e section of In a Free State, the search for fulfillment in a new African country brings additional disappointment. Bobby and Linda have both come to this country, i t would appear, to escape: Bobby to evade social attitudes regarding irregular sexual practices, and Linda and her husband to enjoy freedom from social pressure and competition. Life in Africa, however, fails to provide order; and Bobby and Linda, largely through their own myopia—or will—remain very much apart from the country. The conversation of these two, after spending several years here, is s t i l l very much the conversation of the expatriot: of l i f e back home, of other expatriots, of the Otherness of Africans. Linda, with her pretended "flexibi-l i t y " makes no attempt to understand or like Africans, finds everything "pathetic," and, despite her own reputation among the compound personnel as a "man-eater," (FSt,120)^fears that the Africans may have "done something" to the compound wives, (F3t,227)»For Bobby apartness from Africa is less of his own desiring. He does'; have something of an adherence to liberal attitudes 49 ("people who don't want to serve have no business here" FSt,126) and des-pises Linda's pretense of flexibility—and consequently i t appears a cruel twist of irony when the Africans beat him, except that with his sexual ex-ploitation of African youths he has not been quite the altruist he pretends to be. It is altogether doubtful whether Africa will "save" as he believes i t will. Ultimately he is not only the victim of violence, but he also finds he is unable to be close even to his fellow expatriots: after his confessions of homosexuality and breakdown he realizes that Linda too will be "another of those people from whom he would have to hide.." (FSt,170), Even the colonial, who has spent the better part of his l i f e in this African c ountry, is rewarded with despair and terror. Yet with his attitudes of African non-entity, his desserts—like those of Bobby and Linda—have not been unde-served: There's no good and bad here. They're just Africans. They do what they have to do. That's what you have to t e l l yourself. You can't hate them. You can't even get angry with them. (FSt,193) The colonial spends the sunset of his days in anticipation of being murdered. For Bobby, who can state with such sublimity, "my l i f e is here," (FSt, 169) there may well be the same destiny. Africa has. remained foreign, irreducible. In a Free State sets forth the message that "freedom" is not to be found for the searching; there can be no real '"escape". Whether in Africa, America or England, the seekers of this book find themselves, like the soldiers from Sinai of the Epilogue (who, after being defeated in the desert were spotted trying to walk back home), defeated, lost. The tramp on the Greek liner understands something of Absurd Confrontation in his tears; but his is not the harshest discovery. Santosh, in what was to be a land of salvation comes to recognize the future as "a hole into which I was dropping" 50 (FSt,5l). Even when Santosh i s made a free man, a citizen, he finds nothing to enjoy. Isolation i s inexorable: Some afternoons I walk to the c i r c l e with the fountain. I see the dancers but they are separated from me as by glass. Once, when there were rumours of new burnings, someone scrawled in white paint on the pavement outside my house: Soul Brother. I understand the wordsj but I fe e l , brother to what or to whom? I was once a part of the flow, never thinking of myself as a presence. Then I looked in the mirror and decided to be free. A l l that my freedom has brought me is; the knowledge that I have a face and have a body, that I must feed this body and clothe this body for a certain number of years. Then i t w i l l be over. (FSt,6l) And the narrator of " t e l l Me Who to Kill," alone i n a foreign city, similarly recognizes the meaninglessness of l i f e : " i f a man could just leave a l i f e that spoil" FSt,10l)j but his i s the additional discovery that he himself i s culpable: I see I k i l l myself. The l i t t l e courage that s t i l l remain with me wash away, and the secret vision I had of buying up London, the foolishness I always really know was foolishness, burst. (FSt ,94) In the end purity and peace are to be found only at that elusive "beginning," when the "ancient artist^ knowing no other land, had learned to look at his own and had seen i t as complete" (FSt,255). But Naipaul himself begins to doubt even this innocence, travelling as he i s through ancient Egypt and witnessing children being whipped for picking up the crumbs the tourists toss aside. Although In a Free State i s the bleakest of a l l Naipaul"s works of f i c t i o n , however, i t has by no means been alone in portraying men who appear "incapable or reconciling themselves to the world." Already in Ganesh Ramsumair we met the individual who recognized i n his society elements 51 w h i c h were l e s s than d e s i r a b l e . Even i n the beg inn ing o f N a i p a u l ' s ca reer 28 as a w r i t e r h i s s e l f - p r o c l a i m e d awareness o f the " o d d i t y " o f people h e l d overtones o f deeper s i g n i f i c a n c e j a l r e a d y the p r o t a g o n i s t s exper ienced something o f i s o l a t i o n and f u t i l i t y " ; a l r e a d y the search f o r a s p i r i t u a l E l Dorado had r e s u l t e d i n Absurd f r a g m e n t a t i o n . FOOTNOTES V.S. Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. First published 1957. Subsequent references to this edition \?ill appear in the text, and will be cited as "mm", to be distinguished from citations from The Mimic Men, which shall appear in upper case. 2 "Naipaul1s Technique as a Novelist," Journal of Commonwealth  Literature. 7 (July, 1969), 36. V.S. Naipaul. London: Andre Deutsch, 1966 (Russell Ed.). First published 1959. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. ^ V.S. Naipaul. London: Andre Deutsch, 1970 (Russell Ed.). First published 1967, although i t contains stories written as early as 1954. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. c V.S. Naipaul. London: Andre Deutsch, 1968(Russell Ed.). First published 1958. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. ^"Naipaul1s Technique as a Novelist," p. 36. 7 A Manifold Voice: Studies in Commonwealth Literature (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1970), p. 79. g Rev., New Statesman. 18 May 1957, p. 649. Q "Without a Place: V.S. Naipaul in Conversation with Ian Hamilton," Times Literary Supplement. 30 July 1971, p. 897. 1 0 Rev. of The Suffrage of Elvira. The Listener. 30 May 1957, p. 90. 1 1 A Manifold Voice, p. 79. 12 ' David Ormerod, "Theme and Image in V.S. Naipaul1s A House for Mr. Biswas." Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 8 (Spring, 1966), 595. 13 "Naipaul1s Technique as a Novelist," p. 36. ^ "V.S. Naipaul: A Commonwealth Writer?": Revue des Langues Vivantes. 33 (1967/4), 506. 1 5 V . S . Naipaul. London: Andre Deutsch, 1969 (Russell Ed.). First published 1961. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. 16 "Character and Rebellion in A House for Mr. Biswas." New World. 4 ,4 (Cropover, 1968), 68. 17 Gordon Rohlehr, "Predestination, Frustration and Symbolic Darkness in Naipaul1 s ,:A House for Mr. Biswas,1 " Caribbean Quarterly. 9 , l(April, 1970), 5 . 52 53 18 i Naipaul s Technique as a Novelist," p. 39. 1 9 Ibid.. p. 40. 20 Hena Maes-Jelinek, "The Myth of El Dorado in the Caribbean Novel," Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 6, 1 (June, 1971), 115. 2 1 Page 18. 22 Morris Gilbert, rev. of A House for Mr. Biswas. New; York Times  Book Review. 24 June 1962, p. .30. 23 V.S. Naipaul. London: Andre Deutsch, 1963. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. ^ "What shall I do now? What shall I do!1 " . . . what shall we do tomorrow?" "What shall we ever do?" T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land Estragon: I can't go on like this. Vladimir: That's what you think. S. Beckett, Waiting for Godot 25 V.S. Naipaul. London: Andre Deutsch, 1967. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. 26 V.S. Naipaul. London: Andre Deutsch, 1971. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the text. 27 David Ormerod, "In a Derelict Land: The Novels of V.S. Naipaul," Contemporary Literature. 9 (Winter, 1968), 78. *° "Without a Place," p. 698. CHAPTER III Absurd Consequence A f i r s t reading of a l l but the earliest fiction of Vidia Naipaul reveals more of Beckett's "nothing to be done"^ and Caligula's "men die and they are not happy," than of Roquentin's joy at a l i f e "given for nothing."3 While i t would hardly be correct to say that no character in Naipaul ever achieves anything worthwhile, that nothing counterpoints the "satiric demonstration of the shoddy, the absurd, the ridiculous,"^ yet awareness of a disharmonious universe does result at times in resignation and despair, or in the desire to avoid or deny the condition of Absurdity through some avenue of excape. Hena Maes-Jelinek's harsh accusation that Naipaul's characters do not more than submit, while hardly accurate on the whole, thus contains an element of truth: Naipaul's characters live in a state of passive acceptance, from which they only rouse themselves occasionally; the temporary success they achieve when they are so prompted to action merely stresses the evanescence of the satis-faction and happiness that can be derived from attainment. It seems that things will happen whether they act or not, so that they are mostly overcome by a sense of their own uselessness.5 Even in The Mystic Masseur and The Suffrage of Elvira the protagonists often submit to frustration, while the people of Miguel Street (with perhaps a few exceptions, such as that of the narrator) also take i t largely for granted that "one part of being human is simply hopelessness."^ B. Wordsworth's resignation is probably responsible for his early death, and hopelessness 55 i s even more cardinal to the condition of Bolo, the man who refuses to believe the war i s over, and, more unfortunately, refuses to believe as well that he has won three hundred dollars i n a sweepstake competition. Almost a l l of Naipaul's characters submit to despondency at one time or another. Randolph accepts loneliness, rejection, failure as natural: "even f i n a l expiation, f i n a l triumph, i t seemed, was denied me. Certain things are not for me" (Flag, 54)5 Mohun Biswas comes to expect pleasure and fulfillment chiefly through the auspicious futures of the children; and Richard Stone adopts the attitude that nothing can be changed, that des-truction i s predetermined: It was not by creation that man demonstrated his power and defied this hostile order, but by destruction. By damming the river, by destroying the mountain, by so scarring the face of the earth that Nature's attempt to reassert herself became a mockery. (Stone, 159) And in the later works resignation i s of course even more pervasive. In k Flag on the Island news of the hurricane is greeted with undisguised joy. Waiting for the end becomes an anticipation of a"final benediction" (Flag,233). When the hurricane f a i l s to pass over the island the protagonists are b i t t e r l y disappointed. Life once again becomes an "accomodation" to one's fate.(Flag, 235). Ralph Singh, meanwhile, with his dream of "riding below a sky threatening snow to the very end of an empty world" (MM,98) i s another man who seems to greet the Absurd Equilibrium with despair. Singh's version of the colonial politician, destined to spend his latter days in obscurity i n some London hotel, occasionally arising from lethargic disappointment 7 to contribute an a r t i c l e to The Times, i s essentially "paralyzing." Know-ledge of being descended from generations of idlers and failures increases the d i f f i c u l t y of thinking positively: 56 Below the public dandy, the p o l i t i c a l manoeuvrer and organizer; below that, this negation . . . a man, I suppose, fights only . . . when he feels strongly there i s some connection between the earth on which he walks and himself. But there was my vision of a disorder beyond any one man to put right. There was my sense of wrongness. (MM, 24-8) Part of Singh's problem is that he never believes he belongs to Isabella. His i s a sense of intrusion, a feeling that he, the "picturesque Asiatic" was born for other landscapes (MM, 24-8)» But despair i s most pervasive of a l l in Naipaul's latest work, each section being "a tour de force exploring the private anguish of" a man 'freed by emigration from the homely stupor of l i f e in his own place, but forced g to pay the cost—detachment, fear, and impotence." In two of the stories in particular, "One Out: of Many" and "T e l l Me Who to KillJ !"the characters eagerly await the end. Though Santosh marries the hubshi woman (incidentally committing bigamy, as he already has a wife and children at home in the h i l l s of India), thus becoming an American citizen, he has long ceased to anticipate happiness. Though he has had the experience of "several l i v e s , " he does not wish to add to these,-, (FSt , 6 l ) , As for that hapless narrator of " T e l l Me Who to K i l l " l i f e i s faced daily with those feelings which had come to him once in a nightmare: "I only know that inside me mash up . . . and my l i f e f i n i s h " (FSt,102)«At Dayo's wedding he i s struck by an attack of nausea similar to that which affects Sartre's character Roquentin?* We go in the church and the nice lady makes us s i t on the right side. Nobody else there but Frank and me, and then the other people come in and s i t on the l e f t side, and the ugly church is so big i t i s as though nobody is there at a l l . It i s the f i r s t time I am in a church and I don't like i t . It i s as though they are making me eat beef and pork. The flowers and the brass 57 and the old smell and the body on the cross make me think of the dead. The funny taste is in my mouth, my old nausea, and I feel I would vomit i f I swallow. (FSt,105-106) Even following the narrator's discovery that he is in large measure respon-sible for his own anguish, he is s t i l l unable to act; and so his account ends in the unhappy vision of a young man opening his mouth to scream. Some of the characters in Naipaul, then, actually wish for death. But Naipaul is by no means consistent in this yearning for the end—and except in the case of Laura's daughter Lorna suicide is never recommended. Indeed, several of his characters actively seek to avert death: during his breakdown Bisvras is deeply disturbed by the possibilities of objects to fatally wound; Ralph Singh's final journey to London is largely on be-half of his l i f e ; at least three of the characters in the early stories of A Flag- on the Island ,bewail their encounters with the death of loved ones; and the entire story of Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion weaves itself around Stone's attempt to soften the process of ageing. The wish for death occurs chiefly in the later works, beginning, in part, with Ralph Singh who, secure at last in his London hotel at one point expresses a desire for the very end that he has fled here to escape: I no longer wish to share distress;;;! do not have the equipment. No more wortts for me, except these I write, and in them the politician, chapman in causes, will be suppressed as far as possible. It will not be difficult. I have had my f i l l of political writing. My present urge is, in the inaction imposed on me, to secure the final emptiness. (MM,13) And the desire for nullity is s t i l l more prevalent to Santosh and to that nameless narrator in London. For the former, however, the death-wislk is left somewhat ambiguoust I wanted the fire to spread and spread and I wanted everything in the city, even the apartment block, even 58 the apartment, even myself, to be destroyed and consumed. I wanted escape to be impossiblej I wanted the very idea of escape to become absurd. (FSt,44) In wishing "escape" to become impossible, Santosh fails to realize that the embodiment of any such wish would itself be the ultimate escape. Escape--or at least the desire for escape—takes many&avenues in Naipaul in addition to that involving physical annihilation. Escape, indeed, had been central both to Naipaul's experience of Trinidad ("the threat of failure, the need to escape: this was the prompting of the society I knew." MP,45) and to his understanding of India (" . . . the Indian ability to retreat, the ability genuinely not to see what was obvious" Area. 188). Even in the early works of fiction retreat plays its part. It has been said, for example, that the entire political career of Ganesh Ramsumair is a species of escape;*""^  and certainly Ganesh's final hauteur and change of name suggest that he is only too happy to be rid of the encumbrance of Trinidad society. The political success of Pat Harbans, meanwhile, suggests something of the same: once successful Harbans also scorns to be involved with the community which he has left. The desire for escape, for evasion^occurs, in fact, to almost a l l of Naipaul's characters at one point or another. Many of the people of Miguel  Street. for example, refuse to act once they have been confronted with meaninglessness, while for others (one thinks especially of Man-Man) retreat takes form in fanaticism. And not a l i t t l e of Biswas1 protest, his accusation of "imprisonment" is a refusal to meet the challenge of his responsibilities. He deliberately cultivates, too, other forms of retreat, such as spiritual attachment: while the Tulsis consider him a heretic, the placards he designs during his breakdown bear sentiments which are both comforting and devotional. 59 Another area of retreat for him (although here i t might be argued whether this is in fact retreat or affirmative rebellion) lies in reading. Of con-tinual comfort is the stoicism of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, especially the Meditations of the latter. During his breakdown The Hunchback of Notre  Dame helps to clear his mind, allows him to momentarily forget his fears (House, 239) j and perhaps the best solace of a l l comes to be Dickens-, for in this revelation of a society as grotesque as that he himself knows, he is able to be lifted out of his anxieties:-Then i t was that he discovered the solace of Dickens. Without difficulty he transferred characters and settings to people and places he knew. In the grotesques of Dickens everything he feared and suffered from was ridiculed and diminished, so that his own anger, his own contempt became unnecessary, and he was given strength to bear with the most difficult part of his day: dressing in the morning, that daily affirmation of faith in oneself, which at times was for him almost like an act of sacrifice. (House, 337-338) Later Anand too seeks comfort in the sanctuary of books. For Ralph Singh and for the people of In a Free State evasion is even more pivotal. The period of Singh's actual participation in l i f e is very brief, a "period in parentheses." (MM,38)»Most of his l i f e is spent in preparation and withdravral. Education itself has been a means by which to facilitate escape from the drabness of Isabellan l i f e — a s i t was to be an escape for Sandra from the drabness of London (MM, 54-)» Sexual activity too, as evidenced in Singh's keeping of the sexual diary, is an attempt to ex-change drabness and despair for drama. In the end, wishing as much for with-drawal as safety, Singh seeks refuge and emotional annihilation in London. And the protagonists of In a Free State also seek salvation in a change of geography. From the tramp of the Prologue with his citizenry of the world' (FSt,ll) to Naipaul himself (Why was he taking this voyage?), these people 60 a l l wish to withdrax-? from boredom, f u t i l i t y , s o c i a l pressure—but they also f i n d , unfortunately, that one such attempt at retreat usually serves to necessitate another. Resignation, despair, desire for a n n i h i l a t i o n — t h e s e denote the negative consequences of Absurd Discovery i n Naipaul; nor can one deny considerable weight to t h i s side, especially i n the l a t e r works. Yet i n the end despair i s usually not the v i c t o r . For Camus affirmation existed i n l u c i d i t y alone, and f o r Naipaul too, Absurd Discovery generates a f f i r m -ation through wisdom: Naipaul 1s; attitude i s not e n t i r e l y negative, f o r he i m p l i c i t l y recognizes that l i f e should be other than i t i s . The fear of l i f e or of annihilation which paralyzes..his.•.characters gives them also some kind of self-knowledge and an^awareness that s e l f - s a t i s f i e d people never possess. Naipaul's protagonists almost always gain an understanding of the i d i o -syncrasies and i n j u s t i c e s of l i f e and of the endless aberrations of human nature. Already i n The Mystic Masseur, with his headmaster's "the purpose of t h i s school i s to form, not to inform" (mm,24) Ganesh Ramsumair gains an insight into the i n j u s t i c e s of the educational system i n Trinidad. But l u c i d i t y here i s mostly enjoyed by the narrator who, through the antics of Ganesh, becomes alerted to the hypocrisy which seems to form the basis of his society. Revealed thus to the reader i s the Trinidadian preference for the quack, the effectiveness of bribery, the l i e s which impress, the tragedy which sham can engender (Qanesh's father, also a "masseur" k i l l e d a young g i r l by f a i l i n g to recognize symptoms of appendicitis), the d i f f i c u l t y of achieving success honestly, and the forgetting of one's friends once one has r i s e n . Ganesh himself, being fortunate i n the realm of achievement, 61 is not as lucid in regard to difficulty and deception (including his own) as he might be, though the suppression of his autobiography leaves this finally ambiguous. NaipauE's other early politician, however^-Pat Harbans— is aware a l l along of the disparity between democratic ideal and practise: and he learns something as well of the deceptions of friendship. And in Miguel Street too, the characters gain in wisdom:. Bogart learns something about responsibility, that one cannot continue to indiscriminately engender children without eventually settling down} Elias discovers that l i f e does not always provide what one wishes, but that anguish can be assuaged by settling for less; the narrator discovers the insignificance of man; and several of the characters gain understanding in the realm of love. Mohun Biswas also gains in self-knowledge. Originally blaming the Tulsis for: a l l his vrongs, he becomes aware during his breakdown that he nevertheless needs these people, or that he needs at least the warmth of human activity: There were s t i l l the periods of darkness, the spasms of panic; but now he knew they were not real and because he knew this he overcame them. He remained in the Blue Room, feeling secure to be only a part of Hanuman House, an organism that possessed a l i f e , strength and power to comfort which was quite separate from the individuals who composed i t . (House, 272) When Biswas lives in the barracks, we remember, his greatest fear is that Anand will leave him(House,255); and though he continues "to solace himself with visions of deserted landscapes of sand and snow, his anguish became especially acute on Sunday afternoons, when fields and roads were empty and everything was s t i l l , " (House,243)»He thus finds that i t is "better to be out among real people than to be in his room with the newspapers and his imaginings, " (House,243)«He discovers as well that the "starts of appre«* 62 hen&Lon he f e l t a t the s i g h t of every person i n the s t r e e t d i d not come from f e a r a t a l l ; only from r e g r e t , envy, d e s p a i r , " (House,287)»And Biswas gains f u r t h e r insight i n t o the nature of "freedom!1 When he decides t o leave h i s f a m i l y and journey t o P o r t of Spain t o begin a new l i f e on h i s own he f i n d s t h a t t h i s i s i m p o s s i b l e , t h a t the past cannot be denied, t h a t i f he i s t o have a s p e c i a l "niche" i t w i l l be one not of b r i l l i a n c e , but of the th i n g s he has known a l l along: His freedom was over, and i t had been f a l s e . The past c o u l d not be ignored; i t was never c o u n t e r f e i t ; he c a r r i e d i t w i t h i n h i m s e l f . I f there was a place f o r him, i t was one t h a t had already been hollowed out by time, by everything he had l i v e d through, however imperfect, make-s h i f t and cheating. (House,285) Biswas' acknowledgement of h i s r e a l needs, of h i s t r u e p o s i t i o n i n l i f e , as G.R. Coulthard has pointed out, helps redeem him as a person: "pero l o 12 que l o redime, hasta c i e r t o punto, es l a c o n c i e n c i a de su i n u t i l i d a d . " Richard Stone gains s i m i l a r i n s i g h t i n t o personal need—and i n t o man's l i m i t l e s s c o r r u p t i b i l i t y . Through h i s experience w i t h the Knights' Companion he recognizes t h a t p u r i t y can e x i s t only i n concept: Nothing t h a t came out of the heart, nothing t h a t was pure ought t o be exposed . . . a l l a c t i o n , a l l c r e a t i o n was a b e t r a y a l of f e e l i n g and t r u t h . (Stone, 14-9) This r e c o g n i t i o n of an unkind world w i l l not destroy Stone; h i s g a i n i n wisdom saddens him, but i t a l s o permits him t o continue: He was no des t r o y e r . Once before the world had c o l l a p s e d about him. But he had s u r v i v e d . And he had no doubt t h a t i n time calm would come to him again. Now he was only v e r y t i r e d . (Stone,160) And even more gods are s h a t t e r e d a f t e r Mr. S^one and the K n i g h t s 1 Companion. In both A F l a g on the I s l a n d and The Mimic Men the p r o t a g o n i s t s l e a r n t h a t there can be no place f o r the v i s i o n a r y i n the c o l o n i a l p o l i t i c a l arena, In 63 the end the island politician also loses, and with his own loss he pulls others down. His is a realm in which innocence cannot be sustained, in which even the pure are drawn into a vortex of corruption. Sexual contact, too, is discovered to be a forfeiture of dignity and a harbinger of even deeper apartness, sexual "freedom" (such as Selma's refusal to exercise rights of possession over the narrator) offering further torment. In In a Free State, meanwhile, the protagonists learn that freedom of any sort is an illusions "Will i t be any different where you go?" Priya asks of Santosh when the latter wishes to leave (FSt,57). The nameless narrator in London learns that he himself is largely responsible for his anguish ("I see I k i l l myself." FSt,94-); and Bobby recognizes the truth behind the colonial system, that they, the exploiters, deserve animositys I very much feel that Europeans have themselves to blame i f there's any/ prejudice against them. Every day the president travels up and down, telling his people that we are needed. But he's no fool. He knows the old colonial hands are out to get every penny they can before they scuttle South. It makes me laugh. We lecture the Africans about corruption. But there's a lot of anguish and talk about prejudice when they rumble out l i t t l e rackets. And not so l i t t l e either. We were spending thousands on over-seas baggage allowances for baggage that never went any-where. iFSt, 132) Linda is not gifted with so accurate an insight. Thus despite is being Bobby who is cruelly beaten, Linda in the end is the greater loser. The anguish of Bobby, like the anguish of so many of Naipaul's other characters, remains positives like the sorrow of Samuel Taylor'Coleridge's wedding 13 guest in The Ancient Mariner. Bobby's unhappiness cannot finally be negative i f i t is tempered with wisdom. 64 Affirmation in Naipaul does not stop with lucidity. Absurd Discovery also engenders the consequence of revolt. The oppressor i s now confronted, revolt moving beyond self-knowledge, beyond lucidity, to action. Ganesh Ramsumair himself had practised revolts he abbreviated his term as a school-master, we w i l l remember, because the philosophy of the school interfered with his own idealsj and by refusing the roles set out for him—roles such as early marriage—he earned for himself the name "radical" (mm,88). But rebellion in Naipaul i s best exemplified through Mohun Biswas. Sometimes, of course, Biswas i s merely weak, given over, as A.C. Derrick has noted, to a "petty cantankerousness":'""^' the instance of the food flung out of the window onto Owad's head i s one example. Along with this cantank-erousness, however, exists a courageous confrontation: There i s , i n some weak people who feel their own weakness and resent i t , a certain mechanism which, operating suddenly and without conscious direction, releases them from f i n a l humiliation. Mr. Biswas, who had up t i l l then been viewing his blasphemies as acts of the blackest ingratitude, now abruptly lost his temper. 'The whole pack of you could go to h e l l I ' he shouted. 'I not going to apologize to one of the damn lot of you.1 Astonishment and .even apprehension appeared on their faces. He noted this for a lucid moment, turned and ran up the stairs to the long room, where he began to pack with unnecessary energy. (House, 100) Biswas tries to persuade Govind too, of the merits to be found i n revolt. And i n the end refusal to accept a zero status, refusal to perpetuate his shameful l i v i n g situation (in which the husband, rather than the bride, resides i n the home of the in-laws) gains him a form of respect and a surprising license: Indifference turned to acceptance, and he was pleased and surprised to find that because of his past behaviour he, li k e the g i r l contortionist, now being groomed for marriage, had a certain licence. On occasion pungent 65 remarks were invited from him, and then almost anything he said raised a laugh* (House, 169) Sustained by the reading of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus^Biswas puts into practice the philosophy of paddling his own canoe:- he openly dis-approves of many 6'f the Tulsi practices and policiesj he challenges the Tulsi religious beliefs and associates with Hindus of another sect: he disregards the acceptance of superior and inferior gradings within the Tulsi household; he buys his daughter Savi an expensive doll house when he knows no one child in Hanuman House is to receive special favours; he stands against the pretentiousness of Owad. when the latter returns from studies abroad; and he further deepens the cleavage between his own family and the Tulsis with the move into his own house. Biswas realizes too, that rebellion for rebellion's sake is insufficient, that rebellion must coincide with the positive act of constructing something new: thus the construction of his house, and, in lesser part, his jobs with the Sentinel and with the welfare department. Biswas' desire for a house is also syratomatic of a general wish for beauty and romance. The house, in fact, as David Ormerod comments, is in many ways an artifact, an "attempt to translate into a concrete tangible form the creative impulse whose frustration is one of the major aspects of 15 Biswas' personality." Creative urge for Biswas had begun early in l i f e . Through his friendship with Alec in grade school he discovered his s k i l l in drawing. Later, when Jairam takes him to be trained as a pundit this same s k i l l permits him the privilege of copying out Sanskrit verses. And eventually he decides to take up sign-painting as a profession: 66 So Mr. Biswas became a sign-writer and wondered why-he had never thought of using this g i f t before.. With Alec's help he worked on the cafe; sign and to his delight and amazement i t came out well enough to satisfy the proprietor. He had been used to designing letters with pen and pencil and was afraid that he viould not be able to control a brush with paint.. But he found that the brush, though flattening out disconcertingly at f i r s t , could be made to respond to the gentlest pressure; strokes were cleaner, curves truer.. 'Jiust turn the brush slowly in your fingers when you come to the curve,' Alec said; and curves held fewer problems after that. After IDLERS KEEP OUT BY ORDER he did more signs with Alec; his hand became surer, his strokes bolder, his feeling for letters finer. He thought R and S the most beautiful of Roman letters; no letter could express so many moods as R, without losing i t s beauty; and what could compare with the swing and the rhythm of S? (House,69) Ironically this very sign-painting w i l l lead Biswas- to the Tulsis, for i t i s when he i s painting for their store that he sees and admires; Shama and is thus shortly obliged to trade visions of beauty for marriage. But this i s not the end of his painting: painting, in fact, i s one of the ways he helps avoid boredom during his stay i n The Chase: Religion was one thing. Painting was the other. He brought out his brushes and covered the inside of the shop doors and the front of the counter with landscapes.. Not of the abandoned f i e l d next to the shop, the intricate bush at the' back, the huts and trees across the road, or the low blue mountains of the Central Range in the distance. He painted cool, ordered forest scenes, with gracefully curving grass, cultivated trees ringed with friendly serpents, and floors bright with perfect flowers; not the rotting mosquito-infested jungle he could find within an hour's walk. (House,16^) Although much of his work remains mimicry, nevertheless painting and lettering-help him to preserve sanity during his nervous collapse.. Afterwards, when his placards are taken to Hanuman House they are considered by a l l to be beautiful. Writing, however, soon takes precedence over Biswas' other creative interests—except, of course, for housebuilding. He f i r s t begins to write 67 in The Chase, encouraged by the appearance in a Port of Spain magazine of one of the stories of his friend Misir. But he has difficulty devising his own plots. As a journalist he becomes sensational, but in commenting on his own situation he cannot go beyond the unfinished fantasy story involving a fragile and barren heroine. When ownership of the Sentinel undergoes a change, editorial policy becoming less frivolous, he is re-quested to cease writing his "scandal" stories and do serious surveys on various Trinidadian institutions. But here he is asked to ignore: to look beyond the facts to official figures: always the institutions are to be praised. Biswas* writing, formerly pleasurable, thus becomes burdensome: These features were not easy to write. In the days of Mr. Burnett once he had got a slant, and an opening sentence, paragraph led to paragraph, and his articles had a flow and a unity. Now, writing words he did not feel, he was cramped, and the time came when he was not sure what he did feel. (House, 339) Aware of the badness of his writing, Biswas begins to live in daily fear of being fired; and in the failing of his truly creative drives his early intuition of a "nobler purpose" awaiting him (House,I64) becomes generated toward the drive for a house. In the end victory is his: for although he has vastly overpaid and is heavily indebted for his badly constructed house in Sikkim Street, he has nonetheless been able to give form to a dream; from the morass he has created order: But bigger than them a l l was the house, his house. How terrible i t would have been, at this time, to be without i t : to have died among the Tulsis, amid the squalor of that large, disintegrating and indifferent family; to have left Shama and tiie children among them, in one room; worse, to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one's portion of the earth; to have lived and diedi as one had been born, unnecessary and unaccomodated. (House, 12-13) 68 From an effete, despairing young husband has emerged a man who has been able to actualize his urge for independence, his need to achieve, his vision of expectation. Creation for Biswas, as for Camus' Absurd Man, has been an Absurd affirmation par excellence. At least four of the characters of Miguel Street, as well as Ralph Singh and Richard Stone also attempt to order the world, to construct a "substitute universe"' through creation.. Popo, who calls himself a carpenter, spends his time making the "thing without a name "(MSt,17)cAnd Morgan and Hat are also"artists". The former, an ardent believer in harmony and order, expresses this most strongly in his "pyrotechnicism." Though laughed at and v i l i f i e d , Morgan retains his aesthetic integrity: Morgan was the f i r s t a r t i s t I ever met in my l i f e . He spent nearly a l l his time, even when he was playing the fool, thinking about beauty. Morgan made fireworks. He loved fireworks, and he was f u l l of theories about fireworks. Something about the Cosmic Dance or the Dance of Li f e . (MSt,80) Unfortunately, as the narrator adds, "This was the sort of talk that went clean over our heads in Miguel Street-" (MSt,80),And yet after Morgan deliberately sets f i r e to his house the resultant fireworks display forces the street to.- admit to their astonishing beauty. For Edward, however, the urge toward creativity is expressed in a somewhat lighter vein: his favorite subject—a brown hand clasping a black o n e — i s done completely without shading. But of course i t i s B. Wordsworth who is the paramount a r t i s t of Miguel Street: highly sensitive, able to weep at the beauty of a flower, he performs everything in his l i f e with poetic intensity. And though he writes very l i t t l e , his i s the knowledge that his poem w i l l be the "greatest poem in the world":. 69 B. Wordsworth said, 'I hope to d i s t i l the experiences of a whole month into that single line of poetry. So, i n twenty—two years, I shall have written a poem that w i l l sing to a l l humanity.' (MSt,62-63) While he is able to write, while he retains this confidence—and especially when he shares these experiences with his wife, another "poet"— B. Wordsworth derives i n f i n i t e joy from l i f e ; and with the flagging of his creative a b i l i t y comes an early death. The stories of Richard Stone and Ralph Singh are similarly ones in which creativity becomes a major response to a hostile world. But even before his sudden confrontation with the knowledge of mutability Stone displayed something of the a r t i s t : he indulged in fantasies of moving pave-ments, of canopied streets for winter, and of his being able to f l y ; and his imagination and creative instinct are also exercised in the structures he leaves for Miss Millington—a toy house made from a loaf of bread, a piece of silver paper flattened by every large book in the house. Once Stone finds his imperturbability seriously threatened, however, the Knights' Companion becomes his great creation, his frenzied substitution for the threat of death. In the actual drawing-up of the scheme Stone experiences much of the pleasure of the aesthete: He wrote, he corrected, he re-wrote; and fatigue never came to him. His; handwriting changed. Losing i t s neatness, becoming cramped and crabbed, some of i t s loops w i l l f u l l y inelegant, i t yet acquired a more pleasing, more authori-tative appearance, even a symmetry. The lines were straight; the margins made themselves. The steady patterning of each page was a joy, the scratch of soft pencil on receiving paper, the crossings out, the corrections in balloons i n the margin. (Stone,73) When his plan is accepted by Excal, Stone's joy i s supreme: now, instead of doubting the arrival of spring, he feels at one with i t . And even when the charisma of Whymper shatters his own glory we can be sure that Stone 70 will retain comfort in knowing that the plan itself is successful, exposing, as i t has done, the horror of the Muswell H i l l imprisonment. Ralph Singh too, recognizing the world to be irrational, irreducible, decides to create—and in creation experiences the only real satisfaction he has known. Writing the memoirs at last gratifies his desire for order. Ini-t i a l l y skeptical of writers, believing them to be "incomplete people to whom writing was a substitute for what i t then pleased me to call l i f e " (MM,292), Singh later discovers that the writing of a book could "become an end in itself, that the recording of a l i f e might become an extension of that l i f e " (MM,293). Singh's memoirs, moreover, provide him indirectly with order of another kind. Attached to his room because of his writing, he also becomes attached to the procedure of the hotel: I t never occurred to me that I would have grown to relish the constriction and order of hotel l i f e , which previously had driven me to despairj and that the contrast between my unchanging room and the slow progression of v/hat was being created there would have given me such satisfaction. Order, sequence, regularity: i t is there every time the electric meter clicks, accepting one more of my shillings . . . I know every line on the wallpaper above ray table. I have .. seen no deterioration, but there is talk of redecorating. And the table itself: when I f i r s t sat at i t I thought i t rough and too narrow. The dark surface was stained and scratched, the indentations f i l l e d with grit and dirt; the drawer didn't pull out, the legs had been cut down. It wasn't part of the standard hotel furniture. It had been provided specially; i t was a junkshop article, belonging to no> one, without a function. Now i t feels rehabilitated and clean; i t is familiar and comfortable; even the scratches have acquired a shine. This is the gift of minute observation which has come to me with the writing of this book, one order, of which I form part, answering the other, which I create. (MM, 293-294) Out of a lifelong feeling of homelessness and despair Singh achieves at last "a continuous, quiet enjoyment" (MM,294), this latest period of residence having turned out, paradoxically, to be the most fruitful of a l l (MM, 29.7). 71 The metaphysical demand of the Absurd Man for unity, for order, can seek expression as well in p o l i t i c a l involvement. Here, as in a r t i s t i c creation, he has an opportunity to form a "substitute universe." Three of Naipaul's characters do become p o l i t i c a l l y attached, although this i n -terest at times appears to arise more for the sake of personal aggrandize-ment than out of metaphysical (or sociological) unrest. No reason, for example, i s suggested for Pat Harbans' decision to enter p o l i t i c s , while the p o l i t i c a l career of Ganesh is explained chiefly in terms of dishonour. The Hindu League, with Ganesh as president, i s formed primarily with the thirty thousand dollars in mind that a Hindu industrialist in India ha3 offered to a body which shall work towards "the cultural u p l i f t " of Trinidad Hindus,, (mm,l&4-185). And Ganesh enters p o l i t i c s largely by chance, being flattered into accepting the suggestion of a relative that he i s more p o l i t i c a l l y able than Indarsingh, who has only just returned from Oxford. Ganesh wins, of course, and his subsequent meteoric rise from M.L.C. to M.B.E. occurs just as fortuitously. Knowing nothing of the bribery and corruption underlying a local strike, he naively decides to mediate. Barely escaping from the dissatisfied rioters with his l i f e he thereafter decides to take the stand of those in power: he speaks against the labour movement as being communistic, supports British colonial rule in Trinidad, and is thus shortly made an "M.B.E." Nov/here in this ascent has there been evidence of the need to achieve order—although i t might be imagined that Ganesh's entry into p o l i t i c s has unconsciously evolved from the same suggestion of apartness, the same wish for meaning that earlier found ex-pression in his reading and in his "masseur-ism;1 ff Ralph Singh's entry into the p o l i t i c a l "game" (he himself uses the 72 word MM,45) also occurs somewhat by accident, through his support for the Socialist magazine edited by his friend Browne: So, pettily and absurdly, with the publication of the anniversary issue of the new-look Socialist, our political movement started . . . we found ourselves at the centre less of a political awakening than a political anxiety, to which i t was left to us merely to give direction. (MM, .226) Browne and Singh initiate a political movement "simply by coming together-11 (MM,226).In the end they are uncertain whether they themselves have created the movement, or whether the movement has created them (MM,237)»And they are uncertain too, of goals. Though they "zestfully abolished an order" they have difficulty in defining a purpose: What did we talk about? We were, of course, of the left. We were socialist. We stood for the dignity of the; working mam. We stood for the dignity of distress. We stood for the dignity of our island, the dignity of our indignity. (MM,237) Once power is gained, however, concrete needs do arise: the need to expel the English expatriots who monopolize the administrative section of the c i v i l service, and the need to nationalize. And beneath a l l the arbitrariness of this movement indication remains that Singh's entry into the political arena has not been entirely divorced from metaphysical unrest: I used to feel they [his marriage and political career] were aberrations, whimsical, arbitrary acts which in some way got out of control. But now, with a feeling of waste and regret for opportunities missed, I begin to question this. I doubt whether any action, above a certain level, is ever wholly arbitrary or whimsical or dishonest. (MM,219) In the end one suspects i t has been Singh's sense of wrongness, his sense of Asiatic intrusion which has unconsciously generated this urge toward ordes'b 73 But i f Naipaul"s Absurd Man had been disappointed i n the arenas both of creative and p o l i t i c a l endeavour (which he not infrequently i s ) , he might yet seek affirmation in personal relationships, in, as Camus' 1 6 Caligula had said, "the love one inspires in others." Thus while one cannot deny that Naipaul chronicles the isolation of man, sometimes relat-ionships are formed where none previously exist. In Naipaul human relationships are most disappointing- in their sphere of sexuality. Not one of his characters, in fact, v i s i b l y achieves sexual gratification. Sex i s either hideous, or a cause for' cruelty. It i s friendship in the end which saves, friendship such as that experienced in Miguel Street. In this earliest-written of Naipaul's works the protagonists enjoy a sense of fellowship, a sharing of sympathy and understanding, and a preserving of intimacy and good w i l l in the midst of the worst frustration: Bogart and Hat inquire after the welfare of one another immediately upon arising each morning; the narrator-keeps the secret of Big Foot's cowardice; the street expresses sympathy both for George's young daughter Dolly who i s forced to scrub for her father's prostitutes, and for Elias when he consistentently f a i l s his exams; the narrator's mother looks after Mrs., Herreira when she i s beaten by Toni; and when Hat proudly brings home a baby g i r l who> i s clearly not his, she i s nonetheless praised and cared for by the women of the street. B. Wordsworth too, need not fear obscurity, for his praises shall forever be sung by the narrator. For a l l their idling, drinking, whoring and charlatanry—and allowing the narrator's forgetting Hat and his own seeming insignificance to the people at the end— these people are generally good to one another; and i t i s largely for this- reason that regardless of frustration and f u t i l i t y the pervading tone of the book 74 i s o f c o n s i d e r a b l e . i o i e de v i v r e . D e s p i t e G a n e s h 1 s e a r l y i s o l a t i o n , The M y s t i c M a s s e u r u l t i m a t e l y p o r t r a y s s o m e t h i n g o f t h e same c o m r a d e s h i p . The p e o p l e o f F o u r w a y s and F u e n t e G r o v e , d e s p i t e k n a v e r y and p e t t i n e s s , a r e a g a i n , n o t w i t h o u t k i n d n e s s . The d e a t h o f G a n e s h ' s f a t h e r g e n e r a t e s t h e sympathy o f t h e e n t i r e v i l l a g e , and a f t e r G a n e s h ' s m a r r i a g e a n d move t o F u e n t e Grove a warm f r i e n d s h i p grows w i t h t h e B e h a r r y s . I t i s B e h a r r y , i n f a c t , who c h i e f l y e n c o u r a g e s Ganesh t o w r i t e , v,rho g i v e s h i m a n o t e b o o k i n w h i c h t o r e c o r d h i s r e a d i n g s , and who s u g g e s t s t h e m a i n t e n a n c e o f a s c h e d u l e . And G a n e s h a n d L e e l a , d e s p i t e ( o r p e r h a p s b e c a u s e o f ) t h e i r i n a b i l i t y t o have c h i l d r e n , a l s o grow c l o s e t o one a n o t h e r : T h e r e was a n o t h e r d i s a p p o i n t m e n t i n h i s l i f e . A f t e r a y e a r i t was c l e a r t h a t L e e l a c o u l d n ' t have c h i l d r e n . He l o s t i n t e r e s t i n h e r as a w i f e a n d s t o p p e d b e a t i n g h e r . L e e l a t o o k i t w e l l , b u t he e x p e c t e d no l e s s o f a good H i n d u w i f e . She s t i l l l o o k e d a f t e r t h e house and i n t i m e became a n e f f i c i e n t h o u s e k e e p e r . She c a r e d f o r t h e g a r d e n a t t h e b a c k o f t h e house and m i n d e d t h e c o w . She n e v e r c o m p l a i n e d . Soon she was r u l e r i n t h e h o u s e . She c o u l d o r d e r Ganesh a b o u t and he d i d n ' t o b j e c t . She gave h i m a d v i c e a n d he l i s t e n e d . He began t o c o n s u l t h e r on n e a r l y e v e r y t h i n g . I n t i m e , t h o u g h t h e y w o u l d n e v e r h a d a d m i t t e d i t , t h e y h a d grown t o l o v e e a c h o t h e r , (mm,74-) When Ganesh l a t e r a l l o w s h i s f a t h e r - i n - l a w t o be r e c e i v e d i n t o h i s home ( t h e y had b e e n q u a r r e l l i n g f o r s e v e r a l y e a r s ) L e e l a i s s o t o u c h e d t h a t she n e g l e c t s h e r i n - b r e d r e s t r a i n t and o p e n l y embraces h e r husband—and . G a n e s h makes no a t t e m p t t o " p u s h h e r a w a y - " (mm,202),. E v e n t h e q u i n t e s s e n t i a l i s o l a t o Mohun B i s w a s u l t i m a t e l y e x p e r i e n c e s s o m e t h i n g o f f a m i l i a l c l o s e n e s s . A l r e a d y i n h i s c h i l d h o o d , a n d d e s p i t e B i p t i ' s l a c k o f a f f e c t i o n and h i s f a t h e r ' s h a r s h n e s s , h i s f a m i l y was n o t a l t o g e t h e r i n d i f f e r e n t . Raghu d r o w n s , a f t e r a l l , i n what he b e l i e v e s i s 75 an attempt to save h i s son. But most important, despite h i s f e e l i n g s of being trapped i n an enemy stronghold, and despite frequent quarrels, Biswas gradually grows aware that emotional contact has been established between himself, Shama and the c h i l d r e n . The f i r s t evidence of t h i s comes when he and Shama l i v e alone together i n the shop i n The Chase: here Shama i s generally devoted to hi s needs, helps his shopfe|idrg by devising an ingenuous method of keeping account of c r e d i t , and, upon returning to Hanuman House to give b i r t h to t h e i r f i r s t c h i l d , kindly prepares f o r her absence: His clothes had been washed and darned; and he was moved though not surprised, to f i n d on the kitchen s h e l f l i t t l e squares of shop paper on which, i n her M s s i o n -school s c r i p t that always deteriorated a f t e r the f i r s t two or three l i n e s , Shama had p e n c i l l e d recipes f o r the simplest meals, w r i t i n g with a disregard f o r grammar and punctuation which he thought touching. (House,144) While Shama i s gone Biswas g r e a t l y misses her, f i n d i n g the shop i n c r e a s -i n g l y disordered and cold; when she returns he i s overjoyed at having meals once agadn prepared e s p e c i a l l y with him i n mind. And even f u r t h e r human attachment comes with the b i r t h of the c h i l d r e n : i n i t i a l l y frightened of these b i r t h s and remaining aloof from them f o r the most, yet when they are staying at Hanuman House with Shama he does express concern about t h e i r welfare; and he remains unusually i n t e r e s t e d i n t h e i r education, g l a d l y supplying them with extra lessons and the legendary "milk and prunes," (House,324), By the time he i s l i v i n g i n the T u l s i house i n Port of Spain, then, Biswas knows at l a s t the s e c u r i t y of f a m i l i a l warmth: " r e l a t i o n s h i p s had been created where none existed; he stood a t t h e i r centre," (House,479), Relationships, moreover, have been created with more than Biswas 1 immediate family. A f t e r h i s nervous coll a p s e , we w i l l r e c a l l , he also recognizes the 76 warmth contained i n Hanuman House. And eventually Biswas even forms a friendship with Govind, who provides support v/hen he courageously opposes Owad's arrogance. Reconciliation also takes place between Biswas and B i p t i . Failing to provide much-needed affection while he was young, Biswas' mother i s nevertheless endeared to him when she v i s i t s at their temporary residence in Green Vale.. Thus when the doctor who signs l f p t i ' s ' ; death certificate Shows bad temper and disrespect, with the support of Shama and the children, Biswas writes a letter of b r i l l i a n t reproof. A l l of this emotional close-ness has developed gradually, even before Biswas has achieved the dignity of having his own home. Afterwards there is even further affection, Shama for once ceasing to reproach him for what has been, financially, a disas-trous mistake.. Rather than agreeing they s e l l their beloved Prefect car to meet payments, she declares that she w i l l try to s e l l potatoes. But no more was heard of the potatoes, and Mr. Biswas never threatened again to s e l l the car. He didn't now care to do anything against his wife's wishes. He had grown to accept her judgement and to respect her optimism. He trusted her. Since they had moved to the house Shama had learned a new loyalty, to him and to their children; away from her mother and sisters, she was able to express this without shame, and to Mr. Biswas this was a triumph almost as big as the acquiring of his own house. (House,7-8) When Savi returns from her scholarship abroad, receiving a job at a salary larger than Biswas himself could ever have made, i t looks as i f he need ho longerofear even the debt of the house« For Richard Stone, meanwhile, affection helps soften the expectancy of death. I n i t i a l l y skeptical about the sagacity of marriage—and while aware of the power of kindness to smother—Stone nevertheless comes: to f e e l that Margaret i s a "part of him," that he would not know what to do without 77 her..- (Stone, 59)» And Margaret indeed has been very good for him: she shows no surprise at his being slightly less well-off financially than he had made out; she sees him off in the mornings and greets him in the evenings; she humours and encourages him; she brings him a new c i r c l e of friends; and she is very proud of his success with the Knights Companion. .-When; ::\ everything else seems to f a i l the thought of Margaret helps provide the comfort needed to maintain lucidity: "he took his briefcase up to the study.,, to wait there and perhaps to do a l i t t l e work un t i l Margaret arrived," (Stone,159)*Stone and his sister Olive also maintain a special closeness, at least until Stone i s married; Stone enjoys the devoted ser-vice of Miss Millington for the astonishing number of twenty-eight years; and Stone has enjoyed a very long friendship with the Tomlinsons. Even amid the inauspiciousness of The Mimic Men and In a Free State one encounters the occasional example of humanism, of affection—and where personal relationships f a i l entirely one is only made more aware of their importance. The happiest periods of Ralph Singh's l i f e , except for the end,: when he finds unity and purpose in creation, are those in which he is close to his fellows. In his youth he becomes the friend of a boy of mixed Chinese ancestry, Hbk, with whom he competes intellectually; and with Deschampsneufs, a descendant of French slave owners and breeders, he has belching matches. And in London while Singh is a student playing the role of the "extravagant c o l o n i a l 5 , indifferent to scholarship. 1" (MM,2U)} he finds warmth-of-sorts in the attentions, however sordid, of Lieni and her group. It i s during this period that Singh also comes to know Sandra, finding considerable solace, at least in the beginning, in their relation-ship: 78 In those days in London, when a decision had to be made every morning to dress, to go through the day, when on numberless nights I could go to sleep only with the consoling thought of the Luger at my head or the thought of retreat on the following day, the degree and the School abandoned, in those days at the darkest moments I was strengthened by the thought of Sandra. I would say, 'I am seeing her tomorrow. Let me delay decision and last until then.1 And the day v/ould come; and we would both create, out of the drabness that surrounded us both, an occasion. (MM, 54) I n JED. & Free State. meanwhile, the affirmation to be found in human warmth is mostly revealed by its absence. The tramp at Piraeus finds the glamour of travel insufficient; like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, he must relate his travels to some-one. And the narrator of "Tell Me Who to K i l l " knows joy only in those days when his brother lived with him: "'It is true. This was the happy time, when Dayo live in my basement and I work like a man in blinkers," (FSt,9l)«But affirmative human concern does finally exist in this book in the Epilogue, where Naipaul himself, outraged by the treat-ment of the Egyptian children, decides to act: I saw that my hand was trembling. I put down the sandwich I was eating on the metal table; i t was my last decision. Lucidity, and anxiety, came to me only when I was almost on the man with the camel-whip. I was shouting. I took the whip away, threw i t on the sand. He was astonished, relieved. I said, 'I will report this to Cairo.' He was frightened; he began to plead in Arabic. The children were puzzled; they ran off a l i t t l e way and stood up to watch. The two Italians, fingering cameras, looked quite calm behind their sunglasses. The women in the party leaned back in their chairs to consider me. (FSt,253) Were there less "considering" and more "concern" this account suggests, then perhaps purity might have existed elsewhere than at the"beginning." Purity and peace are found in their most unadulterated forms in the Absurd World of Naipaul in the realm of nature. Though Naipaul rather sparingly touches upon luxuriant natural bounty, and although an occasional 7 9 protagonist (one thinks of Blackwhite with his English countryside scenes and Biswas' painting of "cool, ordered forests") seems more embarrassed by his landscape than anything else, yet for several of the characters nature offers consolation and joy. Bven Ganesh Ramsumair at one point describes man as part of a vast Chain of Being: At other times he said that happiness was only possible i f you cleared your mind of desire and looked upon yourself as part of Life, just a tiny link in the vast chain of Creation. 'Lie down on the dry grass and feel Life growing out from the rocks and earth beneath you, through you, and upwards. Look at the clouds and sky when i t isn't hot and feel that you are part of a l l that. Feel that everything else is an extension of you. Therefore you, who are a l l this, can never die.' (mm,162) But Ganesh's philosophy seems much more in keeping with the actions of B. Wordsworth. Wordsworth lives in a yard which, .in its greenness, its growth, its wildness, seems not a part of the city at a l l . He spends hours watching nature (he f i r s t meets the narrator when he watches his bees) or gazing at the stars, and, under his tutelage, the narrator is able to for-get a l l the frustrations of home: B. Wordsworth said, 'Now, let us l i e on the grass and look up at the sky, and I want you to think how far those stars are from us.' I did as he told me, and I saw what he meant. I felt like nothing, and at the same time I had never felt so big and great in a l l my l i f e . I forgot a l l my anger and a l l my tears and a l l the blows. (MSt,60) Even in a story as dreary as A Flag on the Island, relief may be found in the outdoors. After the hurricane fails to provide desired annihilation, Selma suggests release in a very different medium: "The old driftxrood calls. Lovely things can be found in Nature" (Flag,234-) • And Mohun Biswas (despite his paintings) and Ralph Singh too, realize the affirmative succour of wildness. For Mohun Biswas appreciation comes at an early age. As he takes 80 a neighbour's calf to graze he discovers a stream which, though forbidden (water is considered to be an unlucky element for Biswas, and i t is here that Raghu will drown), is an object of fascination and beauty, an object which promises that the world consists of more than the gloom of his home: He continued to go to the forbidden stream. Its delights seemed endless. In a small eddy, dark in the shadow of the bank, he came upon a school of small black fish matching their background so well that they might easily have been mistaken for weeds. He lay down on the bamboo leaves and stretched out a hand slowly, but as soon as his fingers touched the water, the fish, with a wriggle and flick, were away. After that, when he saw the fish, he did not try to catch them. He would watch them and then drop things on the water. A dry bamboo leaf might cause a slight tremor among the fish; a bamboo twig might frighten them more; but i f he remained s t i l l after that and dropped nothing the fish would become calm again. (House, 24) Biswas is to experience this pleasure again at Shorthills ("the silence, the solitude, the fruitful bush in a broken landscape: i t was an enchant-ment" House,360) and during the seaside holiday with Miss Logie. The despondent Ralph Singh, meanwhile, learns that the city can provide only disorder. His has been the dream of retiring not in an anony-mous London hotel, but on a derelict cocoa plantation, where literary labour might "interdigitate" (MM, AO) with agriculture: Cocoa: i t is my favourite crop. It grows in the valleys of our mountain ranges, where i t is cool and where on certain mornings your breath turns to vapour. There are freshwater springs that make miniature waterfalls over mossy rocks and then run clear and cold and shallow in their own channels of white sand. The floor of the cocoa woods is covered x^ith broad brown-and-gold cocoa leaves; and between the cocoa trees, stunted, black-barked, as nervously branched as the oak, there are bright green coffee bushes with red berries; the whole sheltered by giant immortelle trees which at their due season lose a l l their leaves and set every hillside ablaze with bird-shaped flowers of yellow and orange which then, for days, float down on the woods. You hear the mur-mur and gurgle of streams everywhere, mountain streams which after rain turn to torrenta that occasionally flood the depressions. (MM,39) 81 Very d i f f e r e n t from Singh's a c t u a l denouement would t h i s retirement have been, and ample consolation f o r the s t e r i l e metropolis which i s a l l he has r e a l l y known. Aestheticism and a g r i c u l t u r e — s o would Singh have sought solace f o r a l l that had gone before. But i f he experiences defeat i n every area of endeavour, i f he l i v e s i n t h e c i t y and i s unable to taste the t o n i c of wildness, Naipaul's Absurd Man can s t i l l gain reprieve from torment and f u t i l i t y through cognitive laughter. Naipaul's most successful defense of a l l against the i r r e d u c i b i l i t y of the world remains the defense of irony. In The Middle Passage he has written that the West Indies have an "insecure wish to be h e r o i c a l l y portrayed i n t h e i r l i t e r a t u r e , " whereas "irony and s a t i r e , which might help more, are not acceptable." (MP,74)»In his own w r i t i n g , Naipaul's laughter 17 i s not the "castrated s a t i r e " with which Lamming condemned him, but the f i n a l challenge to a nightmare, the ultimate defense against despair. In The Mystic Masseur and The Suffrage of E l v i r a , where the.char-acters are l e s s aware of the Absurd nature of existence than are, generally speaking, most of the characters of the other works, irony i s l a r g e l y the response of a narrator. Ganesh i s i n i t i a l l y i s o l a t e d , opposed to a world i n which a school-master can admit that the imparting of wisdom i s not h i s aim, but t h i s Absurd Discovery becomes f o r the most a prologue to fraudulence. Ganesh makes his way quite n i c e l y out of the Stygian dungeon, and so i t i s l e f t foir the narrator to expose through irony, to confront through scorn. The narrator's a t t i t u d e toward "massaging" ("masseurs were ten a penny i n T r i n i d a d . " mm, 11), and h i s exposition of ignorance ( i n , f o r 8 2 example, Leela's indiscriminate use of punctuation and in Ganesh1s writing a letter to Street and Smith, publishers, t e l l i n g them he was thinking of writing books and wondering if"either of them was interested" mm,75) reveal a not insignificant concern with social predicament. Ironic laughter i s the narrator's weapon against f u t i l i t y , against a society which has a pre-ference for deception. And the same can be said for the narrator's laughter in The Suffrage of Elv i r a . His is the perception, along with that of Ramlogan and Chittaranjan, that democracy in Elvira i s a "stupid thing/' (Elvira,161) 9the flippancy at the end serving to throw in bas-relief the disastrous outcome of possibility. In Miguel Street and in A House for Mr. Biswas, however, irony provides a lance for more than a narrator: B. Wordsworth scorns his love both for his wife and for his waiting in a last attempt to regain repose; Morgan, the pyrotechnicist, laughs both at himself and at his family; and Hat be-comes a librarian in the j a i l , thus mocking the severity of his prison term. Irony for Biswas too, becomes a f o i l , a means by which to retain dignity in a society of seemingly insurmountable frustration. When the Sentinel sets up i t s "Deserving Destitutes Fund" and appoints Biswas as investigator, he comments to Shama: '"Deserving Destitute number one . . . M. Biswas. Occupation: investigator of Deserving Destitutes,,'" (House,398)»Biswas' scorn also helps him to survive the Tulsis. Giving the various members his own not inappropriate "calling names" i s more than cantankerousness: i t is a refusal to be unjustly intimidated. Thus the two spoiled Tulsi sons become "the godsj' Mrs. Tulsi "the old Queen," or "the old Hen," and Seth "the Big Boss r" (House, 94 )• And when Biswas attempts to write "tragic" stories lik e those of his friend Misir he finds that 83 irony has enabled him to transcend tragedy: But Mr. Biswas could never devise a story, and he lacked Misir's tragic vision: whatever his mood and however painful his subject, he became irreverent and facetious as soon as he began to write, and a l l he could manage were distorted and scurrilous descriptions. (House, 165') For Anand, following much in his father's footsteps, scorn will similarly rescue, will similarly help to soften the taunts of Hanuman House. Though no one recognized his strength, Anand was among the strong. His satirical sense kept him aloof. At f i r s t this was only a pose, an imitation of his father. But satire led to contempt, and at Shorthills contempt, quick, deep, inclusive, became part of his nature. It led to inadequacies, to self-awareness and a lasting loneliness. But i t made him unassailable. (House, 372) It is this same dianaetic laughter which has helped the Baker in A Flag  on the Island to outwit in a profession rich in prejudice. When the baker realizes that people in Trinidad simply do not buy bread from a black man, he sets himself up as a Chinese baker, hires Chinese front-desk attendants ,and quietly grows rich: "As I say, I only going in the shops from the back. But every Monday morning I walking brave brave to Marine Square and going in the bank, from the fronts" (Flag,1A6), And the upright Richard Stone, discovering to his horror that his unmarried niece has been made pregnant by the very fellow who has ursurped his own glory, is able to mask his hurt by a show of contempt: "the welfare state hasn't yet run short of milk and orange juice and cod-liver oil»-" (Stone, 154-)* Even the bleaker later works find transcendence in irony. Ralph Singh's reflections on his l i f e both before and during political involve-ment are made more bearable through ironic distance. His interpretation of the active part of his l i f e as a "period in parentheses," his awareness of the indignity of his retirement, are made endurable through his facility for 84 ironic self-assessment—and i t is this which allows him to begin afresh with the writing of the memoirs, to carry on, indeed, to Sisyphean t r i -umph. It does not worry me now, as i t worried me when I began this book, that at the age of forty I should find myself at the end of my active l i f e . I do not now think this is even true. I no longer yearn for ideal landscapes and no longer wish to know the god of the city. This does not strike me as loss. I feel, instead, I have lived through attachment and freed myself from one cycle of events. It gives me joy to find that in so doing I have also ful f i l l e d the fourfold division of l i f e prescribed by our Aryan ancestors. I have been student, householder and man of affairs, recluse. (MM,300) Scorn, in fact, provides relief for those even more desolate than Singh, for even that most desolate of a l l Naipaul1s characters, the narrator of "Tell Me Who to K i l l . " After discovery of the fraudulence of his brother Dayo's studies, and after realizing that a roti shop in the heart of London has been a highly unwise business venture, for a l l his wish "to leave a l i f e that spoil" there is yet strength in the man—strength, that is , as long as he is able to look at his l i f e and mock: All afternoon as I walk I feel like a free man. I scorn everything I see, and when I tire myself out with walking, and the afternoon gone, I s t i l l scorn. I scorn the bus, the conductor, the street. I scorn the white boys who come in the shop in the evening. They come to make trouble. But i t is different tonight. I am fighting for nothing here. They are provoking me. But they give me strength. Samson get back his hair, he is strong. Nothing can touch him. He is going back on the ship, and no matter how black the water is at night, in the morning i t will be blue. (FSt,101-102) When the narrator is no longer able to sustain this ironic lucidity, his strength too, falters. For Bobby ironic consciousness lasts somewhat longer. And i t is this which allows'him to become as close as he does to Africa. While 85 Linda worries about what the Africans might have done to the compound wives and finds Africans on the whole "pathetic," Bobby has a much more realistic sense of expatriot purpose: seeing his own role as one of service, he also sympathizes with the hatred of the blacks for the whites. In a f i t of temper with Linda's "you should either stay away, or you should go among them with the whip in your hand" (FSt , 2 2 6 ) , Bobby lashes out: 'I don't know who you think you are. I don't know why you think i t matters what you think about anything . . . there are millions like you. And millions like Martin. You are nothing.' (FSt, 227) Bobby's scorn is wasted on Linda, however. Africa for her remains escape into the compound, escape, finally, from Africa itself. And Santosh, despite his lucidity, is similarly doomed: because he is unable to laugh he is unable as well to find final affirmation. While much of his story has been temper-ed with irony, this results from authorial perception, rather than from his own understanding. Santosh himself takes a l l too seriously his airplane ride, his contact with the hubshi. his being"dishonoured!' (FSt,38) by the woman who is later to become his wife. In failing to perceive the ludicrousness of his new l i f e , in perceiving only that he has made a great mistake, Santosh remains defeated. But for those characters in Naipaul who, when a l l else fails, are unable to view l i f e through the Sisyphean lenses of scorn, there can be no affirmative denouement. For Naipaul, in order to truly " f i l l a man's heart"' (Sis,91), contemplation of one's torment must take place at some remove. 18 Because laughter retains the power of joining committment to withdrawal, because i t alone among the various forms of Absurd Affirmation need depend on nothing outside itself for survival, i t is cognitive laughter in the end,, which is best able to assuage ontological anguish. FOOTNOTES 11 Waiting For Godot, p. 7. 2 Albert Camus, Caligula and Three Other Plays,. Trans. Stuart Gilbert (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p.ft. Jean Paul Sartre, Nausea, p. 151. ^ A. C. Derrick, "Naipaul's Technique as a Novelist," p. 33. ^ "V. S. Naipaul: A Commonwealth Writer?" p. 510. 6 William Walsh, A Manifold Voice, p. 67. 7 M. Thorpe, "The Mimic Men:. A Study of Isolation," New World. 4, A (Cropover, 1968),, 59. g Angus Calder, "Darkest Naipaulia," New Statesman 8 October 1971, p. 482. 9 "Then the Nausea seized me, I dropped to a seat, I no longer know where I was; I saw the colours spin slowly around me, I wanted to vomit. And since that time, the Nausea has not left me, i t holds me." Nausea, pp. 18-19. 1 0 David Ormerod, "In a Derelict Land: The Novels of V. S. Naipaul," p. 80. 11 "V. S. Naipaul: A Commonwealth Writer'?" p. 510. 12 "La Literature do las Antillas Britanicas," Revista Interamericana di Bibliografia. 19 (January-March, 1969), 53. "But what redeems him, in some measure, is his awareness of his uselessness." 13 He went like one that hath been stunned, And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn. - from The Ancient Mariner 14 H "Naipaul1s Technique as a Novelist," p. 33. 15 David Ormerod, "Theme and Image in V. S. Naipaul's A. House for Mg. Biswas."; p. 594. 86 87/ Caligula and Three Other Plays,, p. 10. 17 The Pleasures of Exile. p. 225. 18 Horace M. Kallen cited in Charles Glicksberg, The Ironic Vision in Modern Literature (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969), p. 218. CHAPTER FOUR Widia Naipaul and Absurdity in the West Indies It is hardly surprising that the West Indies should have produced a writer whose Weltansicht reflects disorder. The feelings of isolation, fragmentation and f u t i l i t y experienced by Mohun Biswas and Naipaul's other characters find ample foundation in historical and sociological fact, and are variously mirrored by other writers and intellectuals in the area. From the very beginning of European contact the West Indies experienced plunder. Already with their landing upon Haiti Columbus1 sailors repaid the courtesy of the natives (who helped rescue the remains of a slave ship) with ravage and annexation; they claimed the island, introduced Christianity, forced labour, committed murder and rape, and initiated European disease and famine—all of which reduced the native population to about one tenth within fifteen years.And the "el dorado" episode centering in Trinidad bred equal unhappiness. As Naipaul relates in The Loss of El  Dorado. Antonio de Berrio's dream of discovering the fabled city of gold and creating from i t a Third Marquisate to rival those of Lima and Mexico ended in disgrace and ruin: not only did Raleigh destroy his few small huts in St. Joseph, leaving him to die half-crazed in the Venezuelan jungle, but the city of gold itself was never discovered. Domingo de Vera fared Idttle better. Though he claimed to have found El Dorado, bringing back with him seventeen golden eagles and jackals, i t is doubtful whether his story can be believed, the eagles and jackals probably being artifacts from Peru. (El Dor 88 89 27-28)0In a subsequent expedition Vera's men met with s t a r v a t i o n , slaughter (a r e l i e f party having run i n t o a f l e e t of man-eating Caribs) and death by stornu ( E l Dor, 59-6o)0And Raleigh's experiences also came to g r i e f : though he was released from the Tower of London only on condition that he would f i n d the E l Dorado mines and c r y s t a l mountain without d i s t u r b i n g the Spaniards, he f a i l e d . The penalty was death. As Naipaul comments, t h i s was the end of the quest: " i t had begun as a dream as large as the New World i t s e l f j i t had ended i n t h i s search f o r a mine no one had seen, i n an a c t i o n of amateurs, i n which a l l the great ones, and few of the l e s s e r , perished." ( E l Dor, 87) P h i l i p II began to show i n t e r e s t only when i t was too l a t e , and Spanish T r i n i d a d remained a forgotten outpost, a "ghost province," u n t i l i t was captured i n 1797 (two hundred years l a t e r ) by the B r i t i s h . Governor Picton, however, only furthered disorder: instead of e s t a b l i s h i n g T r i n i d a d as a base f o r a"revolution of high p r i n c i p l e s " i n Spanish America ("equality f o r the raulattoes, l i b e r t y f o r the Negroes, property f o r the merchants, s e c u r i t y f o r a l l " E l Dor, 136), the Port of Spain goal was used as a center f o r the torture of u n d i s c i p l i n e d slaves. Although the Spanish invasions had badly decimated the native Indian population (between Columbus' discovery of Jamaica i n 1494 and the B r i t i s h capture of i t i n 1655, f o r example, the e n t i r e population had been wiped out, with only seventy-four remaining i n 1611 ) a s t a i n at l e a s t equal i n wretchedness was the i n t r o d u c t i o n of the slave system. Although Indians had a l s o been used as slaves, f o r reasons of p h y s i c a l strength, economy and the p o s s i b i l i t y of enforcing thorough mental and moral subjugation, the Negro soon proved to be the choice investment. "Melioration Acts" d i d e x i s t , but they were never s e r i o u s l y enforced. In order to prevent r e b e l l i o n , f o r 90 example, one captain of a slave ship was allowed to cut the inner organs of a slave into 300 pieces, forcing the rest of the slaves to each eat a piecej and on the plantation itself i t was not unknown for the slaves to be whipped, muti-lated by the removal of limbs, ears or private parts, have hot wax or hot sugar poured over them, made to eat their own excreta, roasted on slow fires, or f i l l e d with gunpowder and blown up."^  Intellectual and moral ill-treatment too, prevailed; the institution of marriage was condemned: education was considered a waste of time and a danger; the legal system bacame a distant relative of anything nearing justice; and refinements existed neither in the realm of social activity nor in the arts, conversation itself being 5 discouraged, lest i t breed unrest. Even the Church supported the slave trade, the Spanish clergy seeing in i t an opportunity for converting the "heathen," while Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans were a l l heavily in-volved in sugar cultivation, which meant slave holding. The Baptists, meanwhile, would not allow their earlier missionaries to speak against slavery, and the Bishop of Exeter himself retained 655 slaves, for whom he received ^ 12,700 compensation in 1833»^ But even after slavery had been abolished, the plantation system consisted of two very separate worlds: the world of the exploiter and the world of the exploited, the one being for the most white, the other non-white, the one a world of Europeans in splendid mansions, the other a world of the "niggeryard" and, later, the "bound-coolie" yard. Though treated less badly than the slaves, the East Indians and others who came to the West Indies by no means excaped squalor or cruelty. They were provided with inadequate food, lodged in the old slave quarters, severely fined for failure 7 to turn up for work, and were subject to "licks." Often unaware of the true 91 conditions for which they had indentured themselves ("We are not aware that any j^ great difficulty would present itself in sending men to the West Indies, the natives being perfectly ignorant of the place they go to or the length 8 of the voyage they are undertaking," stated a Calcutta firm ), many of the 9 labourers could only think of returning. And those visitors from abroad who failed to recognize the disorder of the society added a new element of perversity. In 1877 James Anthony Froude commented that "seeing always the boundless happiness of the black race" one could only warn that "the powers which envy human beings too perfect feli c i t y may find ways one day of disturbing the West Indian Negro. " ^ Compounding this simplicity, Froude further observed that "the Anglo West Indians, like the English gentry in Ireland, were a fine race of men in their day, and perhaps the improving them off the earth has been a less beneficial process in either case than we are in the habit of supposing.""^" The old naval men too, were lauded as the greatest of heroes, the only mis-fortune being that their descendents would suffer "crowding out" by the 12 blacks from Jamaica and the Antilles. Charles Kingsley, meanwhile, glibly concluded that the Trinidad Negro lived better than the working man in England, although the behaviour of the "negress" did disturb him: "their masculine figures, their ungainly gestures, their loud and sudden laughter, even when walking alone, and their general coarseness, shocks, andi. must shock . . . i t is a painful subject. I shall touch i t in these pages as 13 seldom and as lightly as I can." But by the time Kingsley and Froude made their journeys l i t t l e was left of what might have served as a comprehensive reminder of the past. A few derelict "great houses" from which Froude had constructed the grandeur of 92 the Anglo West Indians, a few scattered sugar-mills—these were the remains of an era already half-forgotten. Obscured alike were magnificence and horror. Today, Naipaul notes, there i s one other r e l i c — a n anchor outside the Royal Victoria Institute i n Port of Spain may be the same anchor Columbus lost during his rough passage into the Gulf of Paria. (MP,55)* The absence of reminders of the past, the wretchedness of what can be remembered, these have been responsible for the West Indian d i f f i c u l t y i n distinguishing a separate identity, the substitution of European values for native needs, and the almost ineradicable urge toward self-denigration. The society in The Mimic Men which bases i t s industries upon foreign products shows not the worst of these consequences: probably the greatest misfortune of West Indian self-censure remains the frenzy toward"whiteness." In a society in which the administrators have been traditionally European, in which everything worthwhile has been associated with white, the non-white . majority i s condemned to feelings of inadequacy, George Lamming's In the  Gastie of rny Skin sensitively portrays boththis slow-to-change subservience paid to the white minority and the separateness of the worlds of the European administrator and the people: The world of authority existed somewhere along the fringe of the villagers' consciousness. Direct contact with the landlord might have helped towards some understanding of what the others, meaning the white, were like, but the overseer who nominally was a mediator had functioned lik e a bridge which might be used, but not for crossing from one end to the other. The world ended somewhere along the bridge, and beyond was another plane of reality; beyond was the Great, which the landlord and the large brick house on the h i l l represented . . . a custom had been established, and later a value which through continual application and a hardened habit of feeling became an absolute standard, of feeling. I don't feel the landlord would like this. If the overseer see, the landlord i s 93 bound to know. It operated in every activity; The obedient lived in the hope that the Great might noj^be offended, the uncertain i n the fear i t might have been. ' During the course of the book, however, a change i n attitude does occur. From " l e t the white genl'man pass" (Castle,26) of the earlier days grows the feeling that "white people who come out from England was a sort of scum who sort of din't know how to liv e at home," (Castle, 14.6)» And toward the end of the book a r i o t takes place in which landlord Creighton i s nearly k i l l e d . But while Naipaul and Lamming recognize the disease of the mimic society, this recognition does not always take place, even among would-be intellectuals. Mayotte Capecia, for example, writes in Je suis Martiniquaise: "I should have liked to be married, but to a white man. But a woman of colour i s never altogether respectable in a white man's eyes. Even when he loves her."^^Later, questioning vrhether her man is handsome, she adds: " A l l I know is that he had blue eyes, blond hair, and a light 16 skin, and that I loved him." Raised in a society in which the privileged are few, in which the pre-requisites for success can s t i l l be those from which the masses are excluded by birth, i t v/ould be d i f f i c u l t indeed for the West Indian to inter-pret his surroundings as other than foreign, hostile; and because escape i s for the most impossible, the West Indian also feels, like Mohun Bisx/as, imprisoned. To be a colonial, as Naipaul commented in an interview, i s to know a kind of perverse security: i t i s to have a l l decisions about major issues taken out of one's hands, and to feel one's p o l i t i c a l status so 17 firmly settled that there i s l i t t l e one can do in the v/orld. Even the intellectual cannot escape the void he sees around him. The frustration of Ralph Singh seems the frustration of the West Indian visionary;.in general.. 94 Between the few who succeed and the masses who f a i l , between the possible and the actual, i s a great divide. In Orlando Patterson's An Absence of  Ruins. for example (Patterson's t i t l e s suggest much in themselves), Alexander Blackraan sees the choice offered by West Indian society as a 18 choice between self-imposed ignorance and confrontation with barrenness, hope i t s e l f being rooted in despair: "these desires of mine, these sudden t r i t e obsessions, I knew them for what they w e r e — l i t t l e dead-ends, mirages in the desert, pauses and commas in the endless statement of my underlying hunger, i t s e l f a vacancy. (Abs of R,22)eAlex had once known good omen—he has received the doctoral degree for a thesis concerning, appropriately, "The Contribution of the Negro to Western C i v i l i z a t i o n " — b u t for others possi b i l i t y never even suggests i t s e l f . For the garbage collectors of The Children of Sisyphus l i f e i s "worthless, lousy, dirty": They [the garbage men]were like men possessed, up there above the city, wretched and lost. Abandoned to a fate which seemed to t e r r i f y them, partly because they were perpetually plagued with doubts of i t s existence, partly because they f e l t that i f indeed i t did exist, then i n some bizarre way they already knew what i t was . . . just them, the garbage-men, them,and the empty turn of the uneventful, everlasting now. In The Children of Sisyphus people li v e atop dung-hills, argue over rotten garbage, and, in the midst of the Rastafarian "Peace and Love," claw a woman to death. Closely interwoven in the works of Derek Walcott too, are the themes of abandonment and irre d u c i b i l i t y : "To find the true self i s s t i l l arduous,/ And for us especially, the elation can be useless and empty/ As this pale, 20 blue ewer of the sky/ Loveliest in drought." And George Lamming, in The  Emigrants. portrays, in terms of symbolic "nausea" an even uglier sociological 95 r e a l i t y : Hist'ry t e l l me that dese same w e s t Indies people i s a sort of vomit you vomit up. Was a long time back England an' France and Spain an' a l l the great nations make a raid on whoever l i v e i n them islands . . . England, France and Spain, a l l o' them, them vomit up what they din't want, an' the vomit settle there in that dim Caribbean sea. It mix up with the vomit them make Africa vomit, an' the vomit them make India vomit, an1 China an' nearly every race under de sun. An' just as vomit never get back i n yuh stomach, these peopl,^, most o 1 them, never get back where they vomit them from. Unable to return to their origins (Haile Selassie, though doubtlessly flattered, has shown no real interest in the Rastafarian movement, the East Indians, too, i f one i s to draw conclusions from An Area of Darkness, being irremediably sundered from India), and hindered from "achievement" by ignorance and poverty, the West Indian experience i s one, a l l too often, of hopelessness: After a while, this whole, Slow grinding circus doesn't give a fuck. There i s nowhere to go. You'd better go. 2 2 Historical abandonment and present day neglect engendered deep feelings of isolation. As Gerald Moore notes, for example, Walcott's volume The Castaway portrays a solitary figure "who must learn to know this island upon which chance and history have stranded him"; his eyes fixed upon the sea "which vomited him up," Walcott's Castaway i s both a "spokesman for a generation endeavouring to throw off r a c i a l and colonial inhibitions in the search for a di s t i n c t l y West Indian existence, and the great reminder of the loneliness imposed upon them by space and timei Though feelings of isolation are natural to peoples everywhere, they are especially endemic to a society where vir t u a l l y everyone i s an immigrant. Close upon the heels; of this discovery of apartness, of belonging to 96 a world which seems to deny purpose and warmth, follows a pervasive attitude of resignation. When formerly slaves were given a holiday they would often s i t for hours at a time in front of their huts, offering no sign of l i f e ; and separated from "family" at the w i l l of the master, a father and son could meet after many years of being apart and offer no greeting or sign of emotion. Initiative was abandoned, lethargy set in, and many of the slaves could never be urged to s t i r at a l l unless they were whipped. Today the sense of impotence experienced i n Naipaul 1s Miguel Street (in which, significantly, i t i s largely impossible to distinguish the characters by race) i s only too pervasive in the West Indies. In Mais' Black Lightning (1955) the statue into which Sake carves the thoughts of a lifetime reflects chiefly suffering: "Look, Amos, i f you could gather up a l l the suffering there i s i n the world . . . of a l l the folks who have lost their way i n some kind of darkness, and of a l l who have known any kind of lack that human flesh and s p i r i t can know . . . take a l l that suffering, and add i t up . . . you would get something like that—that hopeless, uneven slump of the shoulders, that face." 5^ It i s out of a similar sense of despair that Alexander Blackman i n An Absence  of Ruins decides i t would be wisest to remain uninvolved: "I want to persist i n being unattached. Simply looking on. That way I can expect to be every-thing. I can anticipate everything, yet never experience the shock of realizing anything," (Abs of R,42). But despair in the West Indies seeks release in avenues i n addition to that of non-attachment. Carnival, for example, has been called a "noise which 26 fears everything"j and emigration st a t i s t i c s constantly rise, writers and intellectuals being prominent among those who find i t necessary to leave the islands either for a short time or to emigrate permanently. Yet r e l i e f i s 97 rarely to be found in "escape"; further despair, further imprisonment often follow. Mohun Biswas' exchanging the shackles of the Tulsis for indebtedness to his own relatives is one example among many. In Patterson Dinah escapes the "dungle" only to find herself in an area of equal, i f not worse, desti-tutions She soon discovered that the area was considered by outsiders just as much a part of the slums of Kingston. And in one sense i t was decidedly the worst part to live in. For the people were a l l trying so desperately hard to deny that i t was. Blast themi The stupid, pushing, hypocritical fools. Striving, striving, striving. But getting nowhere, going down i f anything, a horse in quicksand. Sensitive like mad too, she realized. Always ready to curse you and t e l l you of the gutter you were,„coming from. And they were so good at describing the gutter. And for the emigre the required "roots," the required "identity" are hardly to be found in a ghetto in London or New York. There is no satisfactory "escape" anywhere for the West Indian—to extend Edward Brathwaite's inter-pretation of the wanderings of the Negro—it would seem: Where then is the nigger's home? In Paris Brixton Kingston Rome? Here? Or in Heaven? What crime his dark dividing skin is hiding? What guilt now drives him on? Will exile never end? 98 "Escape" being ultimately impossible, only by embracing his restless-ness can the West Indian conceive i t as positive, as the pathway to possible affirmation. The noblest, says Derek Walcott, are those who have accepted P i Q the twilight. In Earl Lovelace's While Gods are Falling, as Helen Pyne Timothy has noted, this means that the individual i s to seek involvement, 3C participation in the problems of his home, his neighborhood, and his society. For Walcott himself i t means confrontation with history and searching within: If I see these [those who accept the "twilight"] as heroes i t is because they have kept the sacred urge of actors everywhere: to record the anguish of the race. To do this, they must return through a darkness whose terminus is amnesia. The darkness which yawns before them is terrifying. It i s the journey back from man to ape. Every actor should make this journey to a r t i -culate his origins, but for these who have been called not men but mimics, the darkness must be total, and the caje should not contain a single man-made mnemonic object. In Orlando Patterson, meanwhile, confrontation occurs—in Ralph Singh fashion ;—as a coming to terms with the ruins of a l i f e : I come from nowhere worth mentioning. I have no past, except the haunting recollection of each passing moment which comes to me always as something having lost . . . i f I appear to be like you (an Englishman in London], please understand that i t is out of no vain wish to be identified with you, but out of the simple desire not to draw attention to myself. I cannot say whether I am c i v i l i z e d or savage, standing as I do outside of race, outside of culture, outside of history, outside of any value that could make your question meaningful. I am busy going nowhere, but I must keep up the appearance of going in order to forget that I am not. So i f you'll excuse me, I will' be on my way* (Abs of R, 160) For Patterson, as for Naipaul and other Absurdists, the condition of Absurdity must be sustained i f affirmation is to be achieved; truth must be confronted for there to be Sisyphean "joy," But as with Naipaul's Mohun Biswas and Richard Stone, the West Iridian need not always chose preservation of the Absurd condition as the f i n a l affirm-99 ative step. In the midst of the worst thralldom man is often s t i l l capable of revolt. In The Castle of my Skin, for example, the early semblance of permanence, the early feelings that nothing would change (Castle, 193) suddenly give way to the riots in which the landlord Creighton almost loses his l i f e , and resulting from v/hich he is forced to s e l l the property which has been in the family for generations. Caribbean history i t s e l f has not been without a revolutionary fervour(though admittedly this occurred less in the British West Indies than elsewhere), having fostered such men as 32 33 Cudjoe and Cuffyv";' and Toussaint L'Ouverture. Already in the "middle passage" the slaves had given trouble, teing a constant threat to the lives of the sailors; and a variety of avenues for rebellion arose on the planta-tions: refusal to v/ork, general inefficiency and laziness or evasion; satire; 34 running away; suicide; and individual or'' collective violence." It was under Toussaint L'Ouverture, however, that the slaves achieved their pre-eminent revolutionary victory. During a period of twelve years the slaves of San Domingo defeated in turn the local whites and the soldiers of the French monarchy, a Spanish invasion, a British expedition of some 600,000 men, and a French expedition of similar size, a l l of which resulted in the creation 35; of the Negro state of Haiti.'' Resistance to oppression.can generally flow along two channelsI passive or active. Toussaint L'Ouverture was of the opinion that violence would best be met with reciprocal violence, an attitude which Franz Fanon presently shares. Recognizing the indignity of the colonial mimicry of European values and traditions, Fanon believes that liberation can only be achieved through force: "at the level of individuals, violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his i n f e r i o r i t y complex and from his despair and inaction; i t makes him fearless and restores his self-respect. 100 For others* however, notably for the Jamaican-based Rastafarian cult, resistance has been largely passive: a neglecting of the body, a refusal to work or to vote; and a consoling of one's troubles with ganja. Yet even here episodes of violence break out, Marcus Garvey himself having suggested that one must make known one's needs by whatever avenue possible: Power is ine only argument that satisfies man. Except the individual, the race or the nation has POWER that is exclusive, i t means that that individual race or nation w i l l be bound by the w i l l of the other who possesses this great qualification . . . hence i t is advisable for the Negro to get power of every kind. Power in education, science, industry, po l i t i c s and higher government. That kind of power that w i l l stand out signally, so that other^y races and nations can see and i f they w i l l not see, f e e l . Garvey.'S; advice to the Negro to obtain "power of any kind" proved to i n f l u -ence more than the Rastafarians: in the last decade the "Black Power move-ment has also adopted his vision. Aside from puissance to be gained in ^ education, science, industry and so on, the West Indian has discovered—as, of course, do Naipaul's char-acters—that the i r r e d u c i b i l i t y of his world might also be challenged i n the realm of creativity. Even when lack of education among the slaves impeded the fruition of serious art, refuge was s t i l l to be found in the imaginative: the negroes on the slave ships and plantations often wove into song the loss of their country and friends and the harsh treatment meted out to them by their cruel slave masters; and stories were told of "Anancy," the mischievous spider-man, a bald-headed hero derived from the Ananse of the Akan peoples 38 of West Africa. but while the Anancy stories continue to be told today, the "protest" songs having helped to create the calypso, in the twentieth century the West Indian writer and intellectual has also begun to take a more self-conscious attitude toward art as a means by which to confront the irrat i o n a l : 101 The blighted puppetry of the novel and the theatre, v/hich invests in the absurdity of sacrifice, becomes—in spite of itself at times, in spite of the reactionary echoes of the past—the protest of feeling against that unfeeling acceptance of destiny which is promulgated in the name of service or tradition. It is an unconscious protest against tradition when a tradition hardens into the very premature convulsion a l l tradition should instinctively seek to overthrowQin the name of an act of fulfillment, however obscure. ' As B. Wordsworth and Ralph Singh both turn to art forms in an attempt to understand the irreducible and to add pattern and order where none exist, so too the sudden mushrooming of the number of writers within the Caribbean since education has become more universally accessible—and the treatment within their irorks of the various sociological problems of the region— attests to the therapeutic solace of art. Within these writings themselves" the keeping of "memoirs" becomes almost a commonplace. Derek Walcott, meanwhile, suggests a further creative means through which lucidity might be maintained: the forging of a new language which would go beyond mimicry, the creation of a dialect which would have the "force of revelation as i t invented names for things."^ But identity and pride of place can be most easily found in the West Indies in the natural world. As Selma suggests in "A Flag on the Island," an appreciation of tropical beauty can actually negate the need for escape. (Flag, 234-)• For Frank Collymore, meanwhile, healing magnificence is to be found in the sea: Life came from the sea, and once a goddess arose Fullgrown from the saltdeep; love Flows from the sea, a flood; and the food Of islanders is reaped from the sea's harvest, And not only l i f e and sustenance; visions, too, Are born of the sea; the patterning of her rhythm Finds echoes within the musing mind. ., I must always be remembering the sea. 102 Even within the squalor of Roger Mais nature possesses "beauty and pattern." Tropical trees continue to bear fruit in the most desolate of yards, the sun and moon themselves creating a cosmic beauty: "the sun had rolled up high and hot in the cloudless sky that was the colour of new corrugated iron roofing; the light seemed to split up into a thousand flashy fragments as i t flowed over the oily leaves of the lime tree; past that, and the shadow of the shacks, i t lay like a starched white sheet across the rectan-gular yard." But Wilson Harris has the greatest confidence of a l l in the affirmative succour to be found in the natural world. Guyana possesses the additional challenge and promise of an unexplored interior; therefore, as Gerald Moore observes, where the island writer so often presents a movement beyond the seas, the Guyanese writer from the time of Mittelholzer has been A3 able to turn to the "great, brooding land before him." Harris thus indi-cates that the only hope for survival lies in more deeply scientific know-ledge of nature and its processes and in the renewal of man's creative AA power: He JjJenwick] liked to think of a l l the rivers of Guiana as the curious rungs in a ladder on which one sets one's musing foot again and again, to climb into both the past and the future of the continent of mystery . . . i t was one of those inward flowering truths that kept him spiritually alive, making him able, as i t were, to create an image out of hardship. He had known men who pretended they were attacking an enormous worth-while devil as they chopped and cut their lines through the thickest raarabunta jungle. It nerved them to go on, i t steeled them to stand on their feet and to burn and stay alive. For some of the West Indian writers—but differing this t ime from Naipaul—among the facets of "nature and its processes" which helps assuage the blows dealt by history is the facet of "nature" in man. Jean Paul Sartre comments of Negro poets in the French Caribbean that the "profound unity of 103 natural and sexual symbols i s surely the major originality of the poetry of the Negro, especially at an epoch when . . . the images of white poets tend toward a mineralization of the human.Derek Walcott, too, reflects that "belly-centeredness," however regrettable at times, has nevertheless formed a highly pervasive "alternative tradition": i t i s the centre of the art of the calypso, the source of v i t a l i t y of folk singers such as Louise IS! Bennett, and the "blood-beat" of the rhythms and dances. A l l of this has provided an identity of sorts for the inhabitants of the West Indies— though i t includes predominately the Negro and C r e o l e peoples. Sex in the West Indies, then, i s not always the "hideous" "violation" that i t be-comes for Naipaul (and for Naipaul 1s brother Shiva), even among the"whites" and East Indians. The writings of Edgar Mittelholzer, Samuel Selvon, Andrew Salkey and John Hearne a l l portray, to one extent or another, a sexual prodigality that would have f u l f i l l e d the wildest fantasies of even the early pirating sailors: She was pressed against him, and the perfume of her began to permeate his senses. He found himself responding, ' but he only held her arms tight; he would not kiss her. They were in a quiet spot, and could hear ants ticking amidst the leaves of a croton clump near some manocole palms. In the near-distance, around them, goatsuckers uttered their yoo-yoo cry. The dusk had grown very deep, and the f i r e - f l i e s now glowed bright, swift arcs that oft-times moved right before their faces. "She thinks me fl i g h t y ^ does she? A. mad woman. But you like mad women, Hubertus, don't you? You think you like respectable people, but you only fool yourself, my love. It's people lik e me you really l i k e . Bad, bold women..who w i l l not mind shedding their clothes on damp grass." Sex can be Janus-faced, however, even for Edgar Mittelholzer. For a l l the variety and abundance of willing women, Acadian romps, like the one above, 1 0 A can produce deep feelings of guilt, metaphysical questioning. And other writers often find themselves looking outside the West Indies for the sweetest sexual experiences: to Africa, for V.S. Reid (The Leopard): and to London for Samuel Selvon (The Housing Lark)and Andrew Salkey (The Adventures of Catullus Kelly). But in the end in a society in which pleasure is well-tempered with pain, in which neither sexual intrigue nor rebellion nor art can offer permanent relief, that relief, as Naipaul has shown, might yet be found in irony. Andrew Salkey too, makes use of Sisyphean scorn. In The Adventures  of Catullus Kelly the man at the "White Defense League" finds he is no match for Catullus, who wields the weapon of irony in order to maintain his dignity: 'Anglo-Saxon skulls.' Catullus tasted the phrase. Then he looked at the t i t l e at the t op of the spine of the dust-jacket and said, 'The shape of Anglo-Saxon skulls to come. Will they shrink as a result of the in-vasions [of coloured immigrants into Britain] or will they become larger or will they ossify and become unprogressive? The man leered disgustedly and gripped The Shape of  Skulls to Come in his right hand and brought i t close to his chin. 'Now, you listen to me,' he began earnestly. 'Personally I have no preference,' Catullus leapt in fearlessly, his conversational politeness intact, 'but which would you rather:.smaller Anglo-Saxon skulls or bigger and better ones?' The taboo-destroying raillery of the calypsos has much the same effect: tourists, colonial administrators, the "yankee dollah," political issues-a l l of these can be fearlessly attacked: I must be very frank and say I was very glad when Sir Hollis went away He cared only for his own enjoyment And did nothing to help us find employment. 105 While for many of the West Indian writers laughter occurs in the form of situation comedy or sexual burlesque (one thinks of much of Selvon and Ismith Khan), in others, as in Naipaul, the smiles are philosophical. Patterson, too, provides his characters (or at least some of them) with the gift of ironic self-assessment: No longer can I play about with meaning, for i t is clear that I can never take such probing seriously. It is not that like the person about to commit suicide meaning has lost a l l relevance for me. This may be so, but to the person who commits suicide this irrelevance is a deathly serious business. I, on the other hand, approach the irrele-vance of meaning from the very opposite pole;; from the shadows of the woodpile, so to speak, with the comic clamour of excited fowls and the indignant rage of fascists in the background. It is not just meaning in its irrelevance which isn't taken seriously, but the approach itself, the approach of the thief who is never quite taken seriously, whether caught or not. (Abs of R,155) Irony for the West Indian is both a refuge (one agrees this much with George Lamming*'"'") and much more than a refuge: i t is a means, accessible to a l l , by which to simultaneously protest and preserve. In general, then, and although our examination must remain at best a cursory one, Naipaul's treatment of the condition of Absurdity—confron-tation of irreducibility with the longing for clarity—would appear to speak for much more than an East Indian-Caribbean Zeitgeist. Yet at the same time there do exist those in the Caribbean who place greater natural weight upon the affirmative., As William Walsh records, some of the West Indians support the belief that i f they have created nothing else, they have never-theless created a people, "second Adams" who are the "inheritors and possessors" of the Caribbean world, people who might yet make the region a worthy place 52 in which to live. Guyana, once again, especially lends itself to this 106 theme: for while meaninglessness and. irreducibility—themes central to Naipaul and other island writers—have largely been the offspring of feelings of restriction and nonentity, Guyana's empty interior, along with her comparatively large number of aboriginal peoples, suggests future promise and historical place, both of which are repeatedly attested to by Wilson Harris. In both Heartland (196^) and The Secret Ladder (1963) a confrontation occurs with an ancestral figure—Petra, an Amerinidian, i n the former, and Poseidon, an ancient African in the latter, both of whom assist the protagonists to experience self-discovery and eternal endurance:^ "Maybe that i s why Poseidon i s a god, after a l l . " He was instantly glad he had not spoken this aloud. In his mind, however, he continued to cry—"He teaches us the terrifying depth of our human allegiance, our guil t i n the facja of humanity, our subservience to the human condition. More than any other West Indian writer, Harris sees man as belonging to a great chain ofteingj i n his ric h l y sensuous awareness of the natural world, and in his vision of a noble "ancestry" s t i l l inhabiting that world, strong ties are formed not only between human beings but between man and environ-ment—and between'Jiife and death, death being a "mere passage from one mode 5 5 of being into another": Fenwick was dreaming a very strange dream: i t seemed that an inquisition of dead gods and heroes had ended, an i n -quiry into the dramatic role of conscience i n time and being, the dangers of mortal ascent and immortal descent. The one chosen from amongst them tocbscend was crying something Fenwick was unable to fathom but the echoes of annunciation grew on every hand and became resonant with l i f e . . . In our end . . . our end . . . our end i s our Fenwick awoke. It was the dawn of the seventh day. 107 Wilson Harris stands rather alone i n his v i s i o n of p o s s i b i l i t y , however, and one notes that much of his presentation of f u l f i l l m e n t takes place i n the i n t e r i o r of the country. Away from the d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n and despair of the Guyanese coastal area i t i s easier to conceive of unity and hope, easier to forget the a t r o c i t i e s perpetrated by c o l o n i a l history. For the island writers there can be no such promise of hist o r y and hinterland. Examination of the past involves Orphean anguish or, at best, a c r i s i s of confusion: I who am poisoned with the blood of both, Where s h a l l I turn, divided to the vein? I who have cursed The drunken o f f i c e r of B r i t i s h r u l e , how chose Between t h i s A f r i c a and the English tongue I love? Naipaul's own attempt to trace a Trinidadian history, we w i l l remember, l e d to further feelings of outrage, his endeavour to re-locate his East Indian ancestry making more permanent his sense of rootlessness: India had not worked i t s magic on me. I t remained the land of my childhood, an area of darknessj l i k e the Himalayan passes, i t was closing up again, as fast as I withdrew from i t , into a land of myth; i t seemed t o \ e x i s t i n just the timelessness v/hich I had imagined as a c h i l d , into which, for a l l that I walked on Indian earth, I knew I could not penetrate. In a year I had not learned acceptance. I had learned my separateness from India, and was content, tote a c o l o n i a l , without a past, without ancestors. (Area, 252) India, l i k e the Caribbean, possessed a fundamental disharmony. I f there had been anything i n India to which Naipaul f e l t akin i t was the attitude of withdrawal. But even here dwelt an important d i s t i n c t i o n : f o r while the East Indian appeared incapable of r e b e l l i o n (Area, 208-209), withdrawal i n Naipaul, though occasionally an i n i t i a l response, i s r a r e l y a f i n a l one. Even amid the hopelessness of In a Free State the book closes with 108 affirmative anger. Bewilderment as to roots and loyalties, absence of settled values, societal ills—these are the heritage of the West Indian in general. There can be l i t t l e escaping "that densehess and that strangeness of the world" which is the Absurd :( Sis,ll) unless one perceives the possibilities latent in an uncharted interior, or unless one has been born into a privileged minority; and even then the "stage set" can collapse, Jean Rhys, of European-West Indian stock, for example, portraying a disorientation as severe as any. The frustrations of the predominantly East Indian community which Naipaul depicts thus remain very much characteristic of the society as a whole. But the Absurd Confrontation of Mohun Biswas, Ralph Singh, Ganesh Ramsumair and the others reveals more than the anxieties and impotence of the West Indian, of course. Even in the novels with a West Indian setting Naipaul is not simply a "regional" novelist, as critics as skilled as Hena 58 59 Maes-Jelinek or as well-intentioned as Ivan Van Sertima have implied. In casting his Absurd net deep Naipaul has also cast i t wide. The discovery of isolation, the perception of the hostility of the world, the recognition of a mechanical, meaningless life—these are burdens shared by twentieth-century man everywhere. To create a coherent environment from an irreducible world, to find meaning in the foreign, to confront f u t i l i t y with continuance, these are tasks alike of Biswas, of Stone, of "Bobby," of Patterson's Alexander Blackman, of Mais' Brother Man, of Malcolm Lowry's Hugh Firmin, of Sartre's Roquentin, of Camus' Meursault. Even in Naipaul's most care-fully constricted of "gast Indian" writings something always suggests the cosmic; even in the bizarre antics of "My Aunt Gold Teeth," for example, 109 familiarity is to be found in Gold Teeth's frenzy to thwart death. But while Naipaul's writings reflect much that is universal, his presentation of disorder remains particularly akin to Camus and to those other writers in Absurdist "tradition" who challenge their despair. Naipaul advocates no easy optimism; neither does he attempt to solve or explain. Lucidity is embraced, hope and nihilism rejected. Though his vision grows increasingly bleak, indication remains in the end, in the author's own courageous outburst in In a Free State, that where negation appears to triumph i t would be better replaced by action. Naipaul's vision thus remains both an honest and an important one. His world is neither fatuously amusing nor irreparably tormented. If in the end his philosophical stance leans toward "ironic detachment" this results only at the expense of continued confrontation; and i f he sees less of the auspiciousness of, for example, Wilson Harris, i t is because promise and fulfillment have been less a part of his experience. Smiles do appear on the countenances of most of his characters, but they are smiles of Sisyphean wisdom. And his vision is especially important since, as for any artist worthy of the name, while describing the universal he has also ex-plored something new. In the anguish of Mohun Biswas, in the disorientation of the failed politician Ralph Singh, in the suffering of the dislocated Santosh—to mention only a few—Naipaul has sensitively and brilliantly illuminated the peculiar restless rootlessness of those who have been flung out of history into worlds which remain alien. FOOTNOTES ^ C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins (New York: Random House, 1 9 6 3 . First published 1 9 3 8 ) , p. 4 . Orlando Patterson, The Sociology of Slavery (London:/MacGibbon and Kee, 1 9 6 8 ) , p. 1 5 . Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (New York: Russell and Russell, 1 9 6 1 . First published 194477"?' ! 9 . ^ The Black Jacobins, pp. 9-13. 5 The Sociology of Slavery, pp. 9-10. k Capitalism and Slavery, pp. 42-43. Cheddi Jagan, The West on Trial (London: Michael Joseph, 1 9 6 6 ) , pp. 3 9 - 4 5 . ^ Ibid.. p. 38. 9 Arthur and Juanita Niehoff, East Indians in the West Indies (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Public Museum, I 9 6 0 ) , p. 1 9 . ^ Cited in The Middle Passage, p. 5 7 . 11 The English in the West Indies (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1 9 7 0 . First published 1888F, p. 7 7 . 1 2 Ibid., p. 3 6 2 . 13 At Last. A Christmas in the West Indies (London: Macmillan, 1 9 1 3 . First published 1 8 7 1 ) , p. 7 2 . ^ New York: Macmillan, 1 9 7 0 . First published 1 9 5 3 , pp. 2 2 - 2 3 . Subse-quent references to this edition i i r i . l l appear in the text. J Paris: Correa, 1 9 4 8 , p. 262. Cited in Franz Fanon, Black Skin. White Masks (New York: Grove Press, "J.967), p. 4 2 . 1 6 Ibid. 17 "Without a Place: V.S. Naipaul in Conversation with Ian Hamilton," p. 6 9 7 . 18 London: Hutchinson and Co., 1 9 6 7 , p. 41. Subsequent references to this edition will appear in the -text. 110 I l l 19 London: Hutchinson and Co., 1964, p. 17. 20 From "Allegre" in In a Green Night (London: Jonathan Cape, 1962), p. 59. 21 London: Michael Joseph, 1954, p. 20. From "Mirimar" in Derek Walcott, The Gulf (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970. First published 1963), p. 49. 23 The Chosen Tongue. London: Longmans, 1970, p. 20. 24 The Black Jacobins. p. 15. The Three Novels of Roger Mais (London: Jonathan Cape, 1966), p. 110. 26 Derek Walcott, Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970), p. 5. 27 The Children of Sisyphus, p. 93. 2 8 From "Postlude/Home" in The Rights of Passage (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 78. 29 Dream on Monkey Mountain, p. 5. 30 "Earl Lovelace: his View of Trinidad Society," New World. 4 , 4 (Cropover, 1968), 61. 31 Dream on Monkey Mountain, p. 5. 32 Dates unknown. Best known of the maroon leaders of the Jamaican uprising. With his brothers Accompong and Jphnny, and sub-chiefs Quao and Cuffy, Cudjoe fought the f i r s t Maroon war. By the treaty of 1783 he had won recognition of Maroon freedom and independence. 33 See footnote above. ^ The Sociology of Slavery, p. 260. 35 The Black Jacobins, p. ix. 3 6 The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1966. First published 1963), p. 73. 37 From Marcus Garvey, Jr. The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey c i t e d in Rex Nettleford, M i r r o r T l l i r r o r (Jamaica: Collins and Sangster, 1970), p. 118. 3 8 The Sociology of Slavery, pp. 249-253. 112 ^ Wilson Harris, Tradition. The Writer and Society (London: New Beacon Publications, 1967), p. 26. ^ Dream on Monkey Mountain, p. 17. ^ "Hymn to the Sea" in O.R. Dathprne, ed., Caribbean Verse (London: Heinemann, 1967), p. 27. ^ 2 Th§. Hills Were Joyful Together in The Three Novels of Roger Mais. p. 13. ^ The Chosen £pngue, p. 62. ^ Joyce Adler, "Tumatumari and the Imagination of Wilson Harris," Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 7 (June, 1967), 28. Milson Harris, The Secret Ladder (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), p. 20. Z.6 In Louis James, ed., The Islands in Between (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 69. in * L.Edward Brathwaite, "Jazz and the West Indian Novel II," Bim 12, 45 (July-December, 1967), 4-0. Edgar Mittelholzer, Kavwana Stock (London:. New English Library, 1968. First published 1954), p. 42. 49 London: Hutchinson and Co., 1969, p. 12. 50 Calypso by "Atilla the Hun" cited in The Islands in Between, p. 13. 51 J The Pleasures of Exile, p. 225. 52 m The Chosen iongue, p. 20. 53 Kenneth Ramchand, The West Indian Novel and its Background (London: Faber and Faber, 1970), p. 11. ^ The Secret Ladder, p. 51 • Hena Maes-Jelinek, "The Myth of El Dorado in the Caribbean Novel," p. 121. 56 The Secret Ladderv p. 51. 57 From "A Far Cry from Africa" in Derek Walcott, Selected Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1964), p. 4. 5 8 "V.S. Naipaul: A Commonwealth Writer?" p. 501. 113 In Caribbean Writerss C r i t i c a l Essays (London: New Beacon Books, 1968), p. AO. Van Sertima asserts of A House f o r Mr. Biswas: " A documentary i t remains . . . enter ta in ing and ins t ruc t i ve but, i n sp i te of i t s chal lenging breadth of l i f e , unable to s t r i ke the deeper resonances that could l i f t i t from i t s reg ional context, throwing up no f igure or pattern of events out of the s u p e r f i c i a l plethora of d e t a i l that can grow and expand in to un iversa l myth." A. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. WORKS BY V.S. NAIPAUL (a) Books Naipaul, V.S. A. Flag on the Island. London: Andre Deutsch, 1970. Russell Ed. F i r s t published 1967. . A, House for, Mr. Biswas. London: Andre Deutsch, 1969. Russell Ed. F i r s t published 1961. . An Area, of Darkness. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968. F i r s t published 196A. . In a. Free State. London: Andre Deutsch, 1971. . The Loss of E l Dorado. London: Andre Deutsch, 1969. . The Middle Passage. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. F i r s t published 1962. . Miguel Street. London: Andre Deutsch, 1966. Russell Ed. F i r s t published 1959. • The Mimic Men. London: Andre Deutsch, 1967. . Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion. London: Andre Deutsch, 1963. . The Mystic Masseur. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. F i r s t published 1957. . T£e Suffrage of Elvi r a . London: Andre Deutsch, 1968. Russell Ed. F i r s t published 1958. (b) Articles Naipaul, V.S. "Australia Deserta." Spectator f 16 October 196A, p. 513. . "Caribbean Medley." Vogue. 15 November 1959, p. 90. . "Castles of Fear." Spectator. 5 July 1953, p. 16. • "Documentary Heresy." Twentieth Century. 173 (Winter, 1964-1965), 107-108. 116 . "East Indian, West Indian." Reporter. 17 June 1965, pp. 35-37. . "Indian Autobiographies." New Statesman. 29 January 1965, pp. 156-158. . "Jamshed into Jiminy." New Statesman. 25 January 1963, pp. 129-130. . "Letter to Maria." New Statesman. 5 July 1958, p. LA . "The Regional Barrier." Times Literary Supplement. 15 August 1958, p. 30. . "Trinidad." Mademoiselle. May 1964, p. 187. • "What's Wrong with Being a Snob?" Saturday Evening Post. 3 June 1967, p. 12. . "Words on their Own." Times Literary Supplement. 4 June I964, p. 472. 2. OTHER WORKS Adler, Joyce. "Tumatumari and the Imagination of Wilson Harris." Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 7 (June, 1967), 20-31. Allen, Walter. "Commonwealth Literature." New Statesman. 10 September I960, pp. 341-351. Amis, Kingsley. "Fresh Winds from the West." Spectator. 2 May 1958, pp. 565-566. Argyle, Barry. "Commentary on V.S. Naipaul's 'A House for Mr. Biswas 1: A West Indian Epic."Caribbean Quarterly. 16, 4 (December. 1970), 61-69. Atkins, Shirley Elizabeth. "Aspects of the Absurd i n Modern Fiction, with Special Reference to Under the Volcano and Catch-22." M.A. thesis,. University of Br i t i s h Columbia, 1969. Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. Trans. Maxwell Staniforth. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. New York: Grove Press, 1958. . Waiting for Godot. New York: Grove Press, 1964. 117 Bernbaum, Ernest, ed. Anthology of Romanticism. New York: Ronald Press, 194-8. First published 1929. Birbalsingh, F.M. "Novelists of the British Caribbean 1940-1963." M.A. thesis. London: King's College, 1966/67. Brathwaite, L. Edward. "Jazz and the West Indian Novel II." Bim, 12, 45 (July-December 1967), 39-51. . Masks. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. . The Rights of Passage. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. Brombert, Victor. "Camus and the Novel of the 'Absurd'." Yale French  Studies. 1, 1 (Spring-Summer, 1948), 119-123. Broughton, G. "A Critical Study of the Development of V.S. Naipaul as a Novelist as Reflected in his Four West Indian Novels." M. Phil, thesis. London: Institute of Education, 1966/67. Bryden, Ronald. "Between the Epics." Review of The Loss of El Dorado. New Statesman. 7 November 1969, p. 661. Calder, Angus. "Darkest Naipaulia." Review of In a. Free State. New  Statesman. 8 October 1971, pp. 482-483. Camus, Albert. Caligula and Three Other Plays. Trans. Stuart Gilbert. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958. . The Fal l . Trans. Justin O'Brien. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966. First published 1956. . The Myth of Sisvbhus and Other Essays. Trans. Justin O'Brien. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958. First published 1942. . The Outsider. Trans. Stuart Gilbert. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963. First published 1942* a The Rebel. Trans. Anthony Bower. New York: Vintage Books, 1956. First published 1951. Canton, E.B. A, Bibliography of West Indian Literature. 1900-1957. Port of Spain, Trinidad: Caribbean Commission, 1957. "The Caribbean Mixture." Times Literary Supplement. 10 August 1962, p. 578. Carr, W.I. "The Irony of W.I. Society." Review of The Middle Passage. Sunday Gleaner (Jamaica), 27 January 1963, pp. 14-15. 118 Carter, Martin. Poems of Resistance. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1954. Cartey, U. "The Knights Companion—Ganesh, Biswas and Stone: novels by Vidia Naipaul." 'New World, 2, 1 (Cropover, 1966), 93-98. Chaudhuri, Nirad.C. The Continent of Circe. London: Chatto and Windus, 1965. Clive, Geoffrey. The Romantic Enlightenment. New York: Meridian Books, I960. Coulthard, G.R. "La Literatura de las Antillas Britanicas." Revista Inter- americana di Bibliografia. 19, 1 (January-March, 1969), 39-55. • Race and Colour in Caribbean Literature. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. Cruikshank, John. Albert Camus and the Literature of Revolt. London: Oxford University Press, 1959. Dathorne, O.R., ed. Caribbean Verse. London: Heinemann, 1967. Derrick, A.C. "An Introduction to Caribbean Literature." Caribbean Quarterly. 15, 2&3 (June-September, 1969), 65-78. . "Naipaul's Technique as a Novelist." Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 7 (July, 1969), 32-44. . "The Uncommitted Artist: A Study of the Purpose and Methods of Satire in the Novels of V.S. Naipaul." M. Phil, thesis. Leeds, 1967/68. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground and the Grand Inquisitor. Trans. Ralph E. Matlaw. New York: E.P. Dutton, I960. First published I864. Esslin, Martin. Brief Chronicles: Essays on Modern Theatre. London: Temple Smith, 1970. . The Theatre of the Absurd. New York: Anchor Books, 1969. "An 'Exile' Returns." Sunday Guardian (Trinidad), 25 September I960, p. not available. "The Failings of an Empire." Review of The Loss of El Dorado. Times  Literary Supplement. 25 December 1969, p. L471. Fanon, Franz. Black Skin. White Masks. New York: Grove Press, 1967. . The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 1966. First published 1963. 1 1 9 Froude, James A. The E n g l i s h i n the West Indies. New York: Negro U n i v e r s i t i e s Cress, 1970. F i r s t published 1888. Fugazy, S i s t e r Irene Mercedes. "The P o s i t i v e Values i n the Work of Albert Camus." PhD t h e s i s . Fordham University, 1965. Galloway, David D. The Absurd Hero i n American F i c t i o n . Austin: U n i v e r s i t y of Texas, 1970. Glicksberg, Charles. The Ironic V i s i o n i n Modem L i t e r a t u r e . The Hague:; Martinus N i j h o f f , 1969. Gordimer, Nadine. Review of In a. Free State. New York Times Book  Review. 17 October 1971,"p. 5. Hanna, Thomas. The Thought and Art of Albert Camus. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958. H a r r i s , Wilson. Heartland. London: Faber and Faber, 1964. . "History, Fable and Myth i n the Caribbean and Guianas." Caribbean Quarterly. 16, 2 (June, 1970), 1-32. . Palace of the Peacock. London: Faber and Faber, I960. . The Secret Ladder. London: Faber and Faber, 1963. . T r a d i t i o n , the Writer and Society. London: New Beacon, 1967. Hearne, John. "A Surgeon i n Despair." Review of The Middle Passage. , Sunday Gleaner (Jamaica), 3 February 1963, p. 14-. . Stranger a,t the Gate. London: Faber and Faber, 1956. H i n c h l i f f e , Arnold P. The Absurd. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1969. Hochberg, Herbert. "Albert Camus and the EHiics of Absurdity." B t h i c s . 75, 2 (January, 1965), 87-102. Jagan, Cheddi. The West on T r i a l . London: Michael Joseph, 1966. James, C.L.R. The Black Jacobins. New York: RandomrHbusei 1963. F i r s t published 1938. James, Louis, ed. The Islands i n Between: Essays on West Indian  L i t e r a t u r e . London: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1968. Kennard, Jean E. "Towards a Novel of the Absurd." PhD t h e s i s . Berkeley, 1968. Khan, Ismith. The Obeah Man. London: Hutchinson, 1964. 120 Kingsley, Charles. At Last. A Christmas in, £he West Indies. London: Macmillan, 1913. F i r s t published 1871. Krikler, Bernard. "The Novel Today: V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas." The Listener. 13 February 1964, pT 270. Lamming, George. "A Trinidad Experience." Review of A House for Mr. Biswas. Time and Tide. 5 October 1961, p. 1657. . The Emigrants. London: Michael Joseph, 1954. . In the Castle of my. Skin. New York: Macmillan, 1970. F i r s t published 1953. . Of Age and Innocence. London: Michael Joseph, 1958. . The Pleasures of Exile. London: Michael Joseph, I960. Lewis, R.W.B. The Picaresque Saint: Representative Studies i n  Contemporary Fiction. New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1959. Lovelace, Earl. While Gods are Falling. London: Collins, 1965. Maclnnes, Colin. "Caribbean Masterpiece." Review of A House for Mr. Biswas. The Observer. 1 October 1961, p. 31. McKay, Claude. Banana Bottom. New York: Harper, 1933. McLeod, Alan L. r ed. The Commonwealth Pen: An Introduction to the  Literature of the British Commonwealth. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1961. Maes-Jelinek, Hena. "The Myth of E l Dorado in the Caribbean Novel." Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 6, 1 (June, 1971), 113-127. . "V.S. Naipaul: A Commonwealth Writer?" Revue des Langues Vivantes 33 (1967/4), 499-513. Mais, Roger. The Three Novels of Roger Mais. London: Jonathan Cape, 1966. Miller, K. "V.S. Naipaul and the New Order." Kenvon Review., 29, 5 (November, 1967), 685-689. Mittelholzer, Edgar. Kavwana Stock. London: New English Library, 1968. F i r s t published 1954. Moore, Gerald. The Chosen Tongue: English Writing i n the Tropical World. London: Longmans, 1970. . "East Indians and West: the Novels of V.S. Naipaul." Black Orpheus. 7 (June, I960), 11-15. Morris, Gilbert. Review of A House for Mr. Bjswa3. New York Times Book Review, 24 June 1962, p. 30. 121 "Naipaul on the Principles of Literary Criticism."^Sunday: Gleaner (Jamaica), 1 December 1963, p. A. Naipaul, Shiva. Fireflies. London: Andre Deutsch, 1970. Nandakumar, Prema. The Glory and the Good: Essays in Literature. New Delhi: Asia Publishing House, 1965. Narasimhaiah, CD. "Somewhere Something has Snapped." Review of An Area  of Darkness. The Literary Criterion. 6, A (Summer, 196577 82-96. Nettleford, Rex. Mirror Mirror: Identity. Race and Protest in Jamaica. Jamaica: William Collins and Sangster, 1970. Niehoff, Arthur and Juanita. East Indiaiisin the West Indies. Milwaukee, Wisconsin? Milwaukee Public Museum, I960. Oberbeck, S. "Angry Young Indian." Review of An Area of Darkness. Newsweek. 19 April 1965, p. 103. Oliver, William. "After Absurdity." Educational Theatre Journal. 17, 3 (October, 1965), 196-205. Ormerod, David. "In a Derelict Land: The Novels of V.S. Naipaul." Contemporary Literature. 9 (Winter, 1968), 7A-90. . "Theme and Image in V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas." Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 8 (Spring 1966), 589-602. Patterson, Orlando. An Absence of Ruins. London: Heinemann, 1968. . The Children of Sisyphus. London: Hutchinson New Authors, 196A. . The Sociology of Slavery. London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1968. Press, John ed. Commonwealth Literature: Unity and Diversity in a Common Culture. London: Heinemann, 1965. Pritchett, V.S. "Crack-up." Review of The Mimic Men and A Flag on the  Island. New York Review of Books. 11 April 19687 pp. 10-12. Quinton, Anthony. Review of The Mystic Masseur. New Statesman. 18 May 1957, p. 649. Ramchand, Kenneth. The West Indian Novel and its Background. London: Faber and Faber, 1970. Reid, V.S. The Leopard. London: Heinemann, 1968. Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Andre Deutsch, 1966. 122 Rohlehr, Gordon. "Character and Rebellion in A House for Mr. Biswas." New World. 4, 4 (Cropover, 1968), 66-72. . "Predestination, Frustration, and Symbolic Darkness in Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas." Caribbean Quarterly. 9, 1 (April, 1970), 3-11. Rouse. Ewart. "Naipaul—An Interview." Trinidad Guardianf 28 November 1968, pp. 9 & 13. Salkey, Andrew. The Adventures of Catullus Kelly. London: Hutchinson, 1970. . The Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover. London: Hutchifr son, 1969. Sartre, Jean Paul. Nausea. Trans. Robert Baldick. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965. Selvon, Samuel. The Housing Lark. London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1965. Shenkar, Isreal. "V.S. Naipaul, Man Without Society." Review of In a Free State. New York Times Book Review, 17 October, 1971, pp. 4, 22, 23. Thorpe, M. "The Mimic Men: A Study of Isolation." New World. 4, 4 (Cropover, 1968), 55-59. Timothy, Helen Pyne. "Earl Lovelace: his View of Trinidad Society." New World, 4, 4 (Cropover, 1968), 60-65. Vancura, Zdenek. "The New English Writing in the West Indies." Wissenschaftliehe. 16 (1967), 167-172. Van Sertima, Ivan. Caribbean Writers: Critical Essays. London: New Beacon Books, 1968. Walcott, Derek. "A Great New Novel of the West Indies."Review of A House for Mr^ Biswas. Sunday Guardian (Trinidad), 5 November 1961, p. not available. . "The Achievement of V.S. Naipaul." Sunday Guardian (Trinidad), 12 April I964, p. 15. . The Castaway. London: Jonathan Cape, 1965. • . Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970. . The Gulf. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970. First published 1963. 123 . "History and Picong." Review of The Middle Passage. Sunday Guardian (Trinidad), 30 September 1962, p. not available. . In a Green Night. London: Jonathan Cape, 1962. . "Interview with V.S. Naipaul." Sunday Guardian (Trinidad), 7 March 1965, p. 5. . "Mr. Naipaul's Passage to India." Review of An Area of Darkness. Trinidad Guardian, 20 September 1964, p. 4. . Selected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1964. Walsh, William. A Manifold Voice: Studies i n Commonwealth Literature. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1970. Warner, Maureen. "Cultural Confrontation, Disintegration and Syncretism i n A House for Mr. Biswas." Caribbean Quarterly. 16, A (December, 1970), 70-79. West Indian Literature: A Select Bibliography. Complied by the University Library. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Idnies, 1964. Supplement 1964-1967. Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. New York: Russell and Russell, 1961. F i r s t published 1944.. Wilson, Colin. The Outsider. Boston: ^oughton M i f f l i n Co., 1956. "Without a Place: V.S. Naipaul i n Conversation with Ian Hamilton." Times  Literary Supplement. 30 July 1971, pp. 897-898. Wyndham, Francis. Review of A House for Mr. Biswas. London Magazine. 1, 7 (October, 1961), 90-93. New series. • Review of TJhe Suffrage of Elvira. The Listener. 30 May 1958, p. 90. Wynter, S. "Reflections on West Indian Writing and Criticism." Jamaica  Journal. 11, 4 (1969), 22-23. 

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