Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 10th 2015 Contents B6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, November 10, 2015
From Page B5
Whoever said that the purpose of the
novel was to catch the world as it jumped
about from day to day?
It needs to be stated, however, that
it was with Seepersad that the crossovers
between fiction and journalism began.
He did it naturally and instinctively.
Self-promotingly, Vidia was to make a
fine art of fusing fiction, journalism,
autobiography and biography, emphat-
ically so in later works like The Enigma
of Arrival and A Way in the World,
which he preferred to call "sequences."
A Trinidad consciousness
Seepersad never left Trinidad, but
Vidia and Shiva shook the dust. Among
the pieces in Shiva s posthumous col-
lection An Unfinished Journey (1986),
there is a long item that suggests he
was doing a travel book about Sri Lanka.
The last paragraph Shiva wrote is the
last paragraph in the Sri Lanka fragment.
In this paragraph, his new friend Tissa
is talking about his admirable mother-
in-law: "All the men in her family have
made nothing of their lives. Not her
father, not her husband, not her brothers,
not her sons-in-law. The women have
been the strong ones. It is often like
that in Lanka." Shiva narrates: "Tissa
lopes along beside me. Holding up the
blade of grass, he lets a gust of wind
sweep it away from his fingertips. He
buries his hands in his pockets. Is it
like that in your island as well? " This
is the last sentence Shiva wrote.
Like Vidia, he insisted that he would
not return to us little folks Trinidad.
But however far they wandered, Trinidad
never left them alone.
"Is it like that in your island as well?"
I think that question literally killed Shiva.
Trinidad nagged the brothers. On the
occasion of his accepting the Trinity
Cross, Vidia was asked questions aimed
at finding out if he still considered the
region a backward place. He did not
answer directly. "These are immense
questions" he said, "---my life s work is
about that." The island that exasperated
the man was in the writer s blood. In
1956, the writer in him spoke: "From
the writing point of view, this land is
pure gold. I know it so well, you see.
Pure, pure gold..."
Each of these writers is worth reading
in his own right. But, obviously, they
were not passing ships. They were all
three heading in the same direction:
being a writer.
Responses to shipwreck
At first they carried the same freight
and baggage---the social and cultural
context out of which they came.
Then Seepersad got stranded. In
August 1951, in the middle of describing
to Vidia how he was trying to cope and
how hard it was to really go to work
after work, he couldn t hold back: "The
fact is, I feel trapped."
Some of the pain this stoic man kept
swallowing back may be seen in some-
thing he wrote to Vidia: "Perception is
rare and intelligence is by no means
widespread. Those who have it to any
unusual degree often suffer terribly:
they are the most lonesome creatures
in the world... Yet, more often than not,
it is from such people that the world
derives its true greatness...Sometimes
in our very loneliness, you will produce
that which will be something new and
which you otherwise could not pro-
duce... And do not say you resign your-
self to obscurity. Or if you do, say that
in obscurity you will do your work."
This is so autobiographical. Seepersad
never used the word "shipwreck" but
he conjured the image. The shipwreck
that was the aftermath of the voyages
into indenture was his unconscious
The sons were able to escape. On the
new ships they travelled beyond the
bounding main, taking on board new
material and new understandings as
they strove to fulfill the vocation as
writer that had chosen them. They
wanted to believe they were full-blooded
global creations (as if anything global
has any blood); they were haunted, nev-
ertheless, by the undeniable fact that
memory can eject neither the island
and the native shores, nor the first immi-
grant experience, the ancestral journey
that brought them from that other place
that became an area of darkness.
Anxiety---but also, yearning
I have said that the writings of all
three Naipauls are driven by anxiety. In
the writings of all three, there is also
yearning and nostalgia coming from
they know not where. In all, there is
the fear of extinction. To the three of
them, to write was to live.
On reading Shiva s second novel The
Chip Chip Gatherers (1973), Diana Athill,
an editor at Vidia s first publisher Andre
Deutsch, felt that there had to be "some
very rare and awe-inspiring gene roam-
ing about among the Naipauls."
This conference attempts to give the
kind of lead that could only come from
our perspective as inhabitants of the
country and region that formed and
tested these three writers, and gave them
their themes and obsessions.
For too long we have evaded our
responsibility to think of our writers,
first of all, in terms of what they mean
to us in whose language they write.
Writers make noises that can only be
heard by those whose language they
write in. If there are to be new directions
in West Indian literary studies, it is with
this realisation that we must begin.
common in all
A British editor praised the "rare and awe-inspiring gene"
of the Naipauls after reading The Chip Chip Gatherers.
Love and Death in a Hot Country was
Shiva's third novel.
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