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THE MIDDLE PASSAGE - 1962

The Middle Passage remains one of V S Naipaul’s most controversial texts. This article by Shizen Ozawa claims in fact that with this book V S Naipaul became a “controversial chronicler of chaotic postcolonial conditions.” As does this one by S.Bharathiraja. Zuzana Klímová on the other hand looks at the transtextuality of the work with 19th century writers like Froude and Trollope.This work of creative non-fiction nonetheless continues to be seen as prophetic, or at least prescient as in this article in the local newspapers, the Trinidad Express. Fadwa AbdelRahman however argues that Naipaul adopts the position of a white traveller in his travels across the Third World. But, Raymond Ramcharitar calls the text his “most incisive work about Trinidad” (44). Nalini Persram argues for the pivotal role the text played in putting culture at the forefront of Caribbean valorization. Jason Lagapa in a comparative account finds Walcott’s investment in “the production of art ... more pertinent for the Caribbean than empty tributes to a problematic colonial past” [as in Naipaul] (114).

1962- 2000

Much earlier articles set the tone for the later ones and these have become almost classic. David Ormerod argues that “In The Middle Passage Naipaul examines his hatred of Trinidad. Many of his attitudes are sophisticated, quasi-sociological rationalizations, but the intense gratitude he feels for having been allowed to escape is constant and vehement” (87). Patricia Mohammed highlights how Naipaul’s The Middle Passage participated in the debates surrounding the Trinidadian national identity around the time of the declaration of independence in 1962. W I Carr in an article on West Indian writing speaks about the differences and challenges facing the West Indian writer. Gordon Rohlehr compares Naipaul’s vision to that of the then Honorable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Eric Williams. Williams had financed Naipaul’s trip to Trinidad, and according to Rohlehr both Williams and Naipaul had “similar stances of intellectual detachment from which they delivered equally acerbic judgements on its [Caribbean] deficiencies,” but Rohlehr points out that Williams also believed in the “power of a patriotic and multiethnic intelligentsia to function as role models” (851). John Thieme calls the text “notorious” for its “waspish satire” (1358). Susan Campbell lists the text as evidence that for some years under the British occupation, Trinidad continued to be administered under Spanish law. Michael V Angrosino points out that “It is a book not without sympathy for the people and situations described, but it is utterly devoid of sentimentality” (4).