Catherine Batt


I am struck by how Naipaul draws on literary reference, not only to confirm, but even to valorize, place, and the experience of place, in his own writing. So the Langham Hotel, where the young Naipaul worked as a freelance for the BBC Caribbean Service, is significant because it features in 'at least one Sherlock Holmes story'.1 In The Enigma of Arrival (1987) there is an affinity between the textual experience of time and place as meaningful, and (from its position as canonical writing), Middle English Arthurian literature's power to confirm that experience. The writer turns, for validation of his own feelings, to a description of winter in the fourteenth-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, commenting explicitly on this as indication that he is 'in tune with the landscape'.2 Amesbury is important because it is to a convent there that Guinevere retires after the Last Battle, in which Arthur is killed, and we are reminded that it is only some twenty miles from Camelot, 'at Winchester' (p. 50). (The identification of the place by its names across time is from Thomas Malory's fifteenth-century Marte Darthur.3)



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