not uniformly indulge a patriotic racism and imperial nostalgia or play
to persistent racial stereotypes of non-white peoples in England. His
conservatism, too, is characterised by deeply conflicted attitudes to
liberal principles with respect to racial issues and histories.
V. S. Naipaul, ‘Our universal
Caribbean migration to Britain brought many new things—new music, new foods, new styles. It brought new ways of thinking too. This book explores the intellectual ideas that the West Indians brought with them to Britain. It shows that, for more than a century, West Indians living in Britain developed a dazzling intellectual critique of the codes of Imperial Britain. Chapters discuss the influence of, amongst others, C. L. R. James, Una Marson, George Lamming, Jean Rhys, Claude McKay and V. S. Naipaul. The contributors draw from many different disciplines to bring alive the thought and personalities of the figures they discuss, providing a picture of intellectual developments in Britain from which we can still learn much. The introduction argues that the recovery of this Caribbean past, on the home territory of Britain itself, reveals much about the prospects of multiracial Britain.
disturbed by their visit. And there is modernity. In 1966
V. S. Naipaul drew attention to Trinidad’s modernity. 2
These images of calm, serenity, playfulness and modernity
struggle to crowd out the region’s other face of localised
violence (increasingly gang-based and in run-down city locations) and
disorder. In 2012 murder rates in Jamaica and tiny St Kitts and Nevis
were among the ten highest in the world
unsettled every aspect of ‘the British way’ in its Caribbean
transplantations. The institutions of British culture, irredeemably
syncretic, could never boast that taken-for-granted quality that they
possessed on their home ground. Even when working to their fullest
authority and effect, at any instant they could be experienced as
second-hand or inauthentic. In one of his fictional voices, V. S.
characters who are, nevertheless, adherents of a belief
system founded on the notion of good and evil as absolute
antitheses. The achievement of Mistry, and those other recent
Parsi writers, is, in part, to have kept alive a critical dialogue
between the formative myths of their culture and the requirements of an on-going history.
Of course, the Persian legacy constitutes only one part of
Mistry’s multiple literary inheritance. The author has cited
among his favourites such luminaries as V. S. Naipaul, Ivan
Turgenev, Vladimir Nabokov, Muriel Spark and Albert
creation of intellectual traditions always involves
inclusions and exclusions, remembering some and forgetting others. Roots
‘are not hallowed artefacts shrouded in mystery, but rather we
seem continually to dig them up according to our needs at particular
points in time’. 6
While James sought a tradition of struggle for freedom as
characteristically West Indian, his fellow Trinidadian, V. S. Naipaul
In V. S. Naipaul’s Mimic Men the father of the
narrator walks out of his job at the Department of Education on the
imagined locale of Isabella in order to become a millenarian
street-preacher and agitator in the dock-strike of the late 1930s. His
son, who narrates the story, was (we learn) deeply affected by this
collapse in his family circumstances and thereafter proved to be duly
The Pleasures of Exile had called the
‘phenomenon’ of postwar Caribbean literature in
English 7 was
well under way. Samuel Selvon’s A Brighter Sun (1952),
George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin (1953), Wilson
Harris’s Palace of the Peacock (1960), V. S.
Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas (1960) and Derek
Londoner: V.S. Naipaul and
“The God of the City”’, in Pamela Gilbert (ed.), Imagined Londons (Albany:
State University of New York Press, forthcoming), and Sukhdev Sandhu, ‘Pop
Goes the Centre: Hanif Kureishi’s London’, in Laura Chrisman and Benita
Parry (eds.), Postcolonial Theory and Criticism, pp. 133–54, for interesting discussions.
23 Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness
(London: Verso, 1993).
24 See, for example, Sidney Lemelle and Robin D.G. Kelley (eds.), Imagining
Home: Class, Culture and Nationalism in the African Diaspora (London
, 24 October 1992.
Arthur Calder-Marshall, Glory Dead
(London: Michael Joseph, 1939), pp. 12 and 100. The title comes from
an old local song. It re-emerges later in V. S. Naipaul: ‘The
history I carried with me, together with the self-awareness that had
come with my education and ambition, had sent me into the world with