Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-p2v8j Total loading time: 0.001 Render date: 2024-05-19T02:30:33.014Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false
This chapter is part of a book that is no longer available to purchase from Cambridge Core

(Post)colonial Translations in V. S. Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrival

Shirley Chew
Affiliation:
Leeds University
Get access

Summary

To understand Conrad, then, it was necessary to begin to match his experience. It was also necessary to lose one's preconceptions of what the novel should do …

Joseph Conrad was the first modern writer V. S. Naipaul encountered at the age of ten; and Conrad, seaman turned author, was also someone who ‘had been everywhere before me’ and who ‘sixty to seventy years ago meditated on my world’ (CD, p. 210). Indeed, Conrad's vision of this world, as some critics have remarked, is one which Naipaul seems bound to repeat in his own work: ‘half-made societies … where there was no goal, and where always “something inherent in the necessities of successful action … carried with it the moral degradation of the idea”’ (CD, p. 208). This essay sets out with the view that Naipaul's attitude towards Conrad and Conrad's ‘world’ is not unambivalent, as is demonstrable from the opening quotation and, more extensively, from the complex manner in which colonial societies and identity are revisioned in The Enigma of Arrival. It analyses Naipaul's dismantling in the novel of the colonial fantasy of ‘security’, that is, the notion of ‘a fixed world’ comprising, on the one hand, the timeless perfection of England, and, on the other, the disorder of ‘half-made societies that seemed doomed to remain half-made’ (CD, p. 207). It argues that the dynamics of the novel are sustained upon Naipaul's constructions of himself as colonized subject, migrant, and postcolonial writer, a series of translations and self-translations in which ‘cartographic anxiety’, impinging upon conceptions of ‘the-world-as-exhibition’, becomes transformed into new perspectives and, hence, new mappings of territory and identity.

My examples below of some of the ways in which Conrad ‘meditated’ on his world are taken from the late essay ‘Geography and Some Explorers’.

I stand here confessed as a contemporary of the Great Lakes. Yes, I could have heard of their discovery in my cradle, and it was only right that, grown to a boy's estate, I should have in the later sixties done my first bit of map-drawing and paid my first homage to the prestige of their first explorers. It consisted in entering laboriously in pencil the outline of Tanganyika on my beloved old atlas, which, having been published in 1852, knew nothing, of course, of the Great Lakes. The heart of its Africa was white and big.

Type
Chapter
Information
Translating Life
Studies in Transpositional Aesthetics
, pp. 137 - 160
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2000

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×