John Thieme


V .S. Naipaul's detached and often disdainful attitude to emergent societies has made him many enemies in the Third World . and his portrayal of the black man is particularly problematic since it involves a level of aloofness and scorn not to be found even in his comments on the 'wounded civilization' of India and the 'overcrowded barracoon' of Mauritius. Black West Indians are largely missing from Naipaul's early fiction and when they do appear, in the form of characters like the black M.L.C. whose monocle falls in his soup at the Governor's dinner in The Mystic Masseur (1957) or Miss Blackie, the Tulsis' faithful retainer in A House for Mr Biswas (1961), they are usually caricatured. In his more recent novels black characters figure more prominently, but are generally held at arm's length.



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