Worlds lost and founded: V. S. Naipaul as belated modernist
© Oxford University Press 2019. All rights reserved. This chapter considers V. S. Naipaul as a belated modernist who exhibits what Harold Bloom terms an acute anxiety of influence. Naipaul denies any debt to Anglophone modernism and is widely considered a Dickensian realist. Focusing on The Enigma of Arrival (1987) and A Way in the World (1994), the chapter examines Naipaul’s postcolonial redeployment of Conrad’s delayed decoding, Joyce and Woolf’s hypersubjectivized first-person narration, Kafka’s expressionistic and de Chirico’s surrealistic antirealism, and Proust’s manipulation of narrative chronology. Naipaul’s lack of interest in modernism is a feint, a mark of his sense of belatedness in relation to modern European culture and of an artistic ressentiment both crippling and empowering. The chapter contends that Naipaul’s sly use of modernism embraces inauthenticity as the basis for redefining modernity itself. Naipaul casts himself as the New World subject: a modern, self-made individual constantly reinventing himself and his world with only the found artifacts of an “alien” cultural legacy at his disposal.
- Modernism, Postcolonialism, and Globalism: Anglophone Literature, 1950 to the Present
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