V.S. Naipaul An Area of Darkness

ISBN 13 : 9780375708350

An Area of Darkness

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9780375708350: An Area of Darkness

An Area of Darkness A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness""is Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul's profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India.Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras, Naipaul encounters a diz... Full description

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1. A Resting-Place for the Imagination
 
These Antipodes call to one’s mind old recollections of childish doubt and wonder. Only the other day I looked forward to this airy barrier as a definite point in our journey homewards; but now I find it, and all such resting-places for the imagination, are like shadows, which a man moving onwards cannot catch.
Charles Darwin: Voyage of the Beagle
 
 
You’ve been reading the wrong books, the businessman said. But he did me an injustice. I had read any number of the books which he would have considered right. And India had in a special way been the background of my childhood. It was the country from which my grandfather came, a country never physically described and therefore never real, a country out in the void beyond the dot of Trinidad; and from it our journey had been final. It was a country suspended in time; it could not be related to the country, discovered later, which was the subject of the many correct books issued by Mr Gollancz and Messrs Allen and Unwin and was the source of agency dispatches in the Trinidad Guardian. It remained a special, isolated area of ground which had produced my grandfather and others I knew who had been born in India and had come to Trinidad as indentured labourers, though that past too had fallen into the void into which India had fallen, for they carried no mark of indenture, no mark even of having been labourers.
 
There was an old lady, a friend of my mother’s family. She was jewelled, fair and white-haired; she was very grand. She spoke only Hindi. The elegance of her manner and the grave handsomeness of her husband, with his thick white moustache, his spotless Indian dress and his silence, which compensated for his wife ’s bustling authority, impressed them early upon me as a couple who, though so friendly and close – they ran a tiny shop not far from my grandmother’s establishment – as to be considered almost relations, were already foreign. They came from India; this gave them glamour, but the glamour was itself a barrier. They not so much ignored Trinidad as denied it; they made no attempt even to learn English, which was what the children spoke. The lady had two or three gold teeth and was called by everyone Gold Teeth Nanee, Gold Teeth Grandmother, the mixture of English and Hindi revealing to what extent the world to which she belonged was receding. Gold Teeth was childless. This probably accounted for her briskness and her desire to share my grandmother’s authority over the children. It did not make her better liked. But she had a flaw. She was as greedy as a child; she was a great uninvited eater, whom it was easy to trap with a square of laxative chocolate. One day she noticed a tumbler of what looked like coconut milk. She tasted, she drank to the end, and fell ill; and in her distress made a confession which was like a reproach. She had drunk a tumbler of blanco fluid. It was astonishing that she should have drunk to the end; but in matters of food she was, unusually for an Indian, experimental and pertinacious. She was to carry the disgrace till her death. So one India crashed; and as we grew older, living now in the town, Gold Teeth dwindled to a rusticoddity with whom there could be no converse. So remote her world seemed then, so dead; yet how little time separated her from us!
 
Then there was Babu. Moustached, as grave and silent as Gold Teeth’s husband, he occupied a curious position in my grandmother’s household. He too was born in India; and why he should have lived alone in one room at the back of the kitchen I never understood. It is an indication of the narrowness of the world in which we lived as children that all I knew about Babu was that he was a kshatriya, one of the warrior caste: this solitary man who, squatting in his dark-room at the end of the day, prepared his own simple food, kneading flour, cutting vegetables and doing other things which I had always thought of as woman’s work. Could this man from the warrior caste have been a labourer? Inconceivable then; but later, alas, when such disillusionment meant little, to be proved true. We had moved. My grandmother required someone to dig a well. It was Babu who came, from that back room where he had continued to live. The well deepened; Babu was let down in a hammock, which presently brought up the earth he had excavated. One day no more earth came up. Babu had struck rock. He came up on the hammock for the last time and went away back into that void from which he had come. I never saw him again and had of him as a reminder only that deep hole at the edge of the cricket ground. The hole was planked over, but it remained in my imagination a standing nightmare peril to energeticfielders chasing a boundary hit.
 
More than in people, India lay about us in things: in a string bed or two, grimy, tattered, no longer serving any function, never repaired because there was no one with this caste skill in Trinidad, yet still permitted to take up room; in plaited straw mats; in innumerable brass vessels; in wooden printing blocks, never used because printed cotton was abundant and cheap and because the secret of the dyes had been forgotten, no dyer being at hand; in books, the sheets large, coarse and brittle, the ink thick and oily; in drums and one ruined harmonium; in brightly coloured pictures of deities on pink lotus or radiant against Himalayan snow; and in all the paraphernalia of the prayer-room: the brass bells and gongs and camphor-burners like Roman lamps, the slender-handled spoon for the doling out of the consecrated ‘nectar’ (peasant’s nectar: on ordinary days brown sugar and water, with some shreds of the tulsi leaf, sweetened milk on high days), the images, the smooth pebbles, the stick of sandalwood.
 
The journey had been final. And it was only on this trip to India that I was to see how complete a transference had been made from eastern Uttar Pradesh to Trinidad, and that in days when the village was some hours’ walk from the nearest branch-line railway station, the station more than a day’s journey from the port, and that anything up to three months’ sailing from Trinidad. In its artefacts India existed whole in Trinidad. But our community, though seemingly self-contained, was imperfect. Sweepers we had quickly learned to do without. Others supplied the skills of carpenters, masons and cobblers. But we were also without weavers and dyers, workers in brass and makers of string beds. Many of the things in my grandmother’s house were therefore irreplaceable. They were cherished because they came from India, but they continued to be used and no regret attached to their disintegration. It was an Indian attitude, as I was to recognize. Customs are to be maintained because they are felt to be ancient. This is continuity enough; it does not need to be supported by a cultivation of the past, and the old, however hallowed, be it a Gupta image or a string bed, is to be used until it can be used no more.
 
To me as a child the India that had produced so many of the persons and things around me was featureless, and I thought of the time when the transference was made as a period of darkness, darkness which also extended to the land, as darkness surrounds a hut at evening, though for a little way around the hut there is still light. The light was the area of my experience, in time and place. And even now, though time has widened, though space has contracted and I have travelled lucidly over that area which was to me the area of darkness, something of darkness remains, in those attitudes, those ways of thinking and seeing, which are no longer mine. My grandfather had made a difficult and courageous journey. It must have brought him into collision with startling sights, even like the sea, several hundred miles from his village; yet I cannot help feeling that as soon as he had left his village he ceased to see. When he went back to India it was to return with more things of India. When he built his house he ignored every colonial style he might have found in Trinidad and put up a heavy, flat-roofed oddity, whose image I was to see again and again in the small ramshackle towns of Uttar Pradesh. He had abandoned India; and, like Gold Teeth, he denied Trinidad. Yet he walked on solid earth. Nothing beyond his village had stirred him; nothing had forced him out of himself; he carried his village with him. A few reassuring relationships, a strip of land, and he could satisfyingly re-create an eastern Uttar Pradesh village in central Trinidad as if in the vastness of India.
 
We who came after could not deny Trinidad. The house we lived in was distinctive, but not more distinctive than many. It was easy to accept that we lived on an island where there were all sorts of people and all sorts of houses. Doubtless they too had their own things. We ate certain food, performed certain ceremonies and had certain taboos; we expected others to have their own. We did not wish to share theirs; we did not expect them to share ours. They were what they were; we were what we were. We were never instructed in this. To our condition as Indians in a multi-racial society we gave no thought. Criticism from others there was, as I now realize, but it never penetrated the walls of our house, and I cannot as a child remember hearing any discussion about race. Though permeated with the sense of difference, in racial matters, oddly, I remained an innocent for long. At school I was puzzled by the kinky hair of a teacher I liked; I came to the conclusion that he was still, like me, growing, and that when he had grown a little more his hair would grow straighter and longer. Race was never discussed; but at an early age I understood that Muslims were somewhat more different than others. They were not to be trusted; they would always do you down; and point was given to this by the presence close to my grandmother’s house of a Muslim, in whose cap and grey beard, avowals of his especial d...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness is Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India.
Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras, Naipaul encounters a dizzying cross-section of humanity: browbeaten government workers and imperious servants, a suavely self-serving holy man and a deluded American religious seeker. An Area of Darkness also abounds with Naipaul’s strikingly original responses to India’s paralyzing caste system, its apparently serene acceptance of poverty and squalor, and the conflict between its desire for self-determination and its nostalgia for the British raj. The result may be the most elegant and passionate book ever written about the subcontinent.

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Description du livre Vintage, 2002. État : New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness" is Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul's profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India.Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras, Naipaul encounters a dizzying cross-section of humanity: browbeaten government workers and imperious servants, a suavely self-serving holy man and a deluded American religious seeker. An Area of Darkness also abounds with Naipaul's strikingly original responses to India's paralyzing caste system, its apparently serene acceptance of poverty and squalor, and the conflict between its desire for self-determination and its nostalgia for the British raj. The result may be the most elegant and passionate book ever written about the subcontinent. N° de réf. du libraire ABE_book_new_0375708359

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Description du livre Random House USA Inc, United States, 2002. Paperback. État : New. Reprint. 201 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness is Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul s profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India. Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras, Naipaul encounters a dizzying cross-section of humanity: browbeaten government workers and imperious servants, a suavely self-serving holy man and a deluded American religious seeker. An Area of Darkness also abounds with Naipaul s strikingly original responses to India s paralyzing caste system, its apparently serene acceptance of poverty and squalor, and the conflict between its desire for self-determination and its nostalgia for the British raj. The result may be the most elegant and passionate book ever written about the subcontinent. N° de réf. du libraire AAS9780375708350

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Description du livre Random House USA Inc, United States, 2002. Paperback. État : New. Reprint. 201 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness is Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul s profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India. Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras, Naipaul encounters a dizzying cross-section of humanity: browbeaten government workers and imperious servants, a suavely self-serving holy man and a deluded American religious seeker. An Area of Darkness also abounds with Naipaul s strikingly original responses to India s paralyzing caste system, its apparently serene acceptance of poverty and squalor, and the conflict between its desire for self-determination and its nostalgia for the British raj. The result may be the most elegant and passionate book ever written about the subcontinent. N° de réf. du libraire AAS9780375708350

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