By V. S. Naipaul
In 1960 the govt. of Trinidad invited V. S. Naipaul to revisit his local state and list his impressions. during this vintage of recent trip writing he has created a deft and remarkably prescient portrait of Trinidad and 4 adjoining Caribbean societies–countries haunted via the legacies of slavery and colonialism and so completely outlined through the norms of Empire that they could scarcely think that the Empire is ending.
In The heart Passage, Naipaul watches a Trinidadian motion picture viewers greeting Humphrey Bogart’s visual appeal with cries of “That is man!” He ventures right into a Trinidad slum so insalubrious that the locals name it the Gaza Strip. He follows a racially charged election crusade in British Guiana (now Guyana) and marvels on the Gallic pretension of Martinique society, which continues the fiction that its roads are extensions of France’s routes nationales. And all through he relates the ghastly episodes of the region’s colonial previous and exhibits how they proceed to notify its language, politics, and values. the result's a piece of novelistic vividness and mind-blowing perspicacity that monitors Naipaul on the top of his powers.
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Extra info for The Middle Passage
Some colonies were not blessed with aerodromes—not St Helena for example, nor Tristan da Cunha. There was no simple way of getting to the Pitcairn Islands, in mid-Pacific (population forty-four), and it was strictly forbidden for anyone to go to the Chagos Islands, the sole members of the high-falutin’ arrangement known as British Indian Ocean Territory. Ascension Island was similarly difficult to reach—it belonged to the military, was administered by—of all people—the BBC, was on part loan to the American Navy and was loaded to the gunwales with secret electronics: strangers were discouraged, though not absolutely forbidden.
Slowly I worked on the figures: Greenwich hour angle; local hour angle; declination; azimuth. I was tired, and the swell rocked me back and forth against the chart table. A pencil snapped. I cursed it then, and once again as I managed to get a piece of simple addition wrong, and had to rub out a whole column of figures. Then I remembered that the clock was eleven seconds fast and the sextant had an error of two minutes of arc, and worked anew to build these into the ever-more-entangled filigrees of arithmetic.
There was the Crown colony of the Cayman Islands—these three clumps of coral had, at the zenith of the Empire, been mere dependencies of Jamaica, but Jamaica had gone her own way now, and the Caymans stood colonially alone, their islanders proud to be British in the Caribbean Sea. The Falkland Islands we knew a little about: the son of the Port Stanley harbourmaster had been in my class at school, and he used to tell me stories of the storms and the moorland and the sheep, and how he longed to go back to the peace of it all during the summer holidays, even though it was winter ‘down there’.