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AN AREA OF DARKNESS - 1964

V S Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness is the first of three books he wrote about his travels in India and it has generated a lot of debate, especially among Indians. A 2014 article in the journal Research Innovator for example firmly places V S Naipaul as an ‘outsider’ who lacks essential skills for analysing Indian affairs. But many agree with his views and this book continues to inform India politics. On the other hand, the early responses which looked at this book as an addition to a very meagre collection on the ‘Anglo-Indian’ theme, claim An Area of Darkness for an elite lineage. One writer places him third in a prestigious group. He says, “Since Independence there have been, I think, only three books which have done justice to the Anglo-Indian theme. The first, in point of time, was Nirad C. Chaudhuri’s great Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, perhaps the best book in the English language ever written by an Indian. The second was The Men Who Ruled India.” And then there is V S Naipaul’s. Brian May compares Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses arguing that these two writers “rather than efface the modern, reinscribe it in cultural memory” (243) since “these anti-pilgrims are alienated not by skepticism native bred but by Western and modern influences” (244). Ruth Maxey in her book explores the idea of a ‘deferred home’ in British Asian writing. As with criticism on the other books, numerous recent ones can be found easily on the internet and they occupy a variety of positions. This one by Aloy Chand Biswas for example returns to the earlier suspicion of V S Naipaul’s right to speak about India, as does this one by Neeta Pandey.

1965-2000

Austin Delany in a 1966 review provocatively says that Naipaul’s India is full of “racketeers, spivs, moronic bureaucrats, caste-ridden clerks, alienated engineers, cheating hostellers, religious hysterics, Sikh psychopaths and mendicant relatives. He sees Mother India as a bitch and, in the end, reveals himself to be a son” (50). Kenneth Ramchand that in this text, “the vague feeling for India is unsentimentally explored” (48). Ricky Singh recalls that he was “in Port-of-Spain when Eric Williams, the historian and author of Capitalism and Slavery, launched a blistering attack on Naipaul's An Area of Darkness as a woeful denigration of India” (5).