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THE SUFFRAGE OF ELVIRA - 1958

2001-Present

Local Trinidadian writer Keith Jardim recounts a summary of the plot in the Trinidad Newsday and encourages a reading of this novel because: “Few fictions today capture the character of a certain Trinidad as Elvira does.” Jardim comments that Elvira is certainly accurate about Trinidad’s future. Meanwhile, Lloyd Best in his assessment of Naipaul, post-Nobel Prize, lists the text as his favourite in its insistence on rejecting romance “to paint the picture exactly as it is” because “He [Naipaul] does not pretend we’re anything we pretend to be” (21). Tony Deyal concurs with Best and relates how in an instance of life imitating and outdoing art, “The picture of the protagonist, Harbans, clad in British finery, coat, gloves and all, reminded me of the first time I met Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler” (25).

The work done on The Suffrage of Elvira has however been usually subsumed in studies on Naipaul’s early writings that comprise his four early novels set in Trinidad. The few exceptions include an essay done by K. Ramajeyalakshmi which declares itself a postcolonial study of The Suffrage of Elvira. The essay describes this novel as the most conventionally plotted of all of V S Naipaul’s novels. Ramajeyalakshmi explores several thematic concerns such as politics and prejudice among pre-independent Caribbean people, as well as V S Naipaul’s use of superstition and haunting as a “device for making the past concrete.”

1958-2000

In a compilation of literary works from the Caribbean, L J Harris and D A Ormerod list writers, including Naipaul, who have “claims to being regarded as native West Indian writers, generally on the grounds of birth, education, race, residence, and theme” (147). Nonetheless, not many would agree with Robert D Hamner’s assessment that The Mystic Masseur and The Suffrage of Elvira “are relatively mild comedies about politically uneducated people in Trinidad learning to exploit the electoral process” (73). Gordon Rohlehr points out for example that “Naipaul [in The Suffrage of Elvira] wrote as the hypersensitive insider who located himself spiritually outside of the ignorance, petty crookedness, intrigue, materialism and self-centeredness of his society” (850).