congenital displacement: Naipaul
February 14, 2008, 3:41 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , , ,

Naipaul is a foreigner at birth, every arrival is enigmatic, and crushingly, an outsider in both his place of ancestry and chosen soil.

“To understand the modern state, we are often told, we must read Naipaul, and see how people estranged from their cultures mimic people estranged from their roots.  Naipaul is the definitive modern traveler in part because he is the definitive symbol of modern rootlessness; his singular qualification for his wanderings is not his stamina, nor his bravado, nor his love of exploration – it is, quite simply, his congenital displacement.  Here is a man who was a foreigner at birth, a citizen of an exiled community set down on a colonized island.  Here is a man for whom every arrival is enigmatic, a man without a home – except for an India to which he stubbornly returns, only to be reminded of his distance from it.  The strength of Naipaul is the poignancy of Naipaul:  the poignancy of a wanderer who tries to go home, but is not taken in, and is accepted by another home only so long as he admits that he’s a lodger there.”

Pico Iyer

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