Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

V.S. Naipaul's A Way in the World: Contesting Liminality by Translating the Historical Past/ V.S. Naipaul Se A Way in the World: Om Liminaliteit Te Beveg Deur Die Historiese Verlede Te Verklaar

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

V.S. Naipaul's A Way in the World: Contesting Liminality by Translating the Historical Past/ V.S. Naipaul Se A Way in the World: Om Liminaliteit Te Beveg Deur Die Historiese Verlede Te Verklaar

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this article the concept of liminality is understood in a broad sense to mean the incompleteness of historical representation and the restrained view of reality. The ensuing discussion of the theme will be divided into three parts; each incorporating parts of Paul Ricoeur's analyses in "The reality of the historical past" (1984). Ricoeur investigates the reality of the historical past under three categories--the Same, the Other, and the Analogue. Under the sign of "the Same", contesting liminality is first discussed as the re-enactment of the historical past. This re-enactment of the past, however, has differences in the present on account of imaginative reinterpretations and repattemings of documentary evidence. Under the sign of "the Other", the second part or the article discusses Naipaul's strategy of taking distance to counteract liminality in rewriting the historical past from the vantage point of a writer-traveller. Finally, the analysis under the sign of "the Analogue" points out that the commitment to combat liminality implies an unending attempt at rectifying and reconfiguring the historical past in order to accomplish continuity and renewal.

Opsomming

In hierdie artikel word die konsep liminaliteit breedweg verstaan as die onvolledigheid en beperktheid van voorstellings van die verlede. Die bespreking van die tema word in drie dele verdeel gebaseer op Ricoeur se analise in "The reality of the historical past" (1984). Ricoeur ondersoek die werklikheid van die historiese verlede aan die hand van drie kategoriee--die Selfde, die Ander en die Analoe. Onder die teken van "die Selfde" word die teenwerking van liminaliteit eerstens bespreek as die herbelewing van die historiese verlede. Hierdie herbelewing van die verlede verskil egter van die hede op grond van verbeeldingryke herinterpretasie en die herorganisasie van dokumentere bewyse. Die tweede afdeling van die artikel, onder die teken van "die Ander", bespreek Naipaul se strategie om liminaliteit te bestry deur afstand te skep en die historiese verlede te herskryf vanuit die oogpunt van 'n skrywer-reisiger. Ten slotte toon die analise onder die teken van "die Analoe" dat die projek om liminaliteit te oorskry 'n nimmereindigende poging impliseer om die historiese verlede reg te stel en weer vorm te gee ten einde kontinuiteit en vemuwing te bewerkstellig.

1. Introduction

   [I]t is only by means of the unending rectification of our
   configurations that we form the idea of the past as an
   inexhaustible resource (Ricoeur, 1984).

Mixing semi-autobiography, travel writing, documentaries, character analysis and fiction, A way in the world: a novel (1994) (1) is a book of nine sectionalised meditations through which V.S. Naipaul arrives at a deeper understanding of his multicultural heritage and hybrid identity. The novel also celebrates Naipaul's masterful skill of using different literary genres to illuminate "areas of darkness" surrounding him and to transmit his diasporic experience. Inhabiting "two worlds"--the world inside his East-Indian extended family in Trinidad, and that of the outside world, Naipaul seeks to translate liminality by incorporating individual stories into the geopolitical and sociocultural history of Trinidad. To a certain degree, Naipaul's achievement in interweaving personalised (post)colonial experiences with Spanish and British imperial (ad)ventures has generated a new way of re-charting the terrain of English literature.

2. Re-enacting (un)written histories

Attempting to find "a proper form" suitable for his "every kind of experience", Naipaul often writes against and beyond generic boundaries because "the literary forms [he] practiced flowed together and supported one another" (Naipaul, 2003:24, 20). Naipaul remarks that the literary models he studied and applied as a result of his colonial education do not work for him because they "dealt with entirely different societies" (Naipaul, 2001:484) in which the possibility of "a wider learning, an idea of history, a concern with self-knowledge" exists (Naipaul, 2003:25). …

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