V.S. Naipaul : homelessness and exiled identity
Thinking through notions of homelessness and exile, this study aims to explore how V.S. Naipaul engages with questions of the construction of self and the world after empire, as represented in four key texts: The Mimic Men, A Bend in the River, The Enigma of Arrival and A Way in the World. These texts not only map the mobility of the writer traversing vast geographical and cultural terrains as a testament to his nomadic existence, but also follow the writer’s experimentation with the novel genre. Drawing on postcolonial theory, modernist literary poetics, and aspects of critical and postmodern theory, this study illuminates the position of the migrant figure in a liminal space, a space that unsettles the authorising claims of Enlightenment thought and disrupts teleological narrative structures and coherent, homogenous constructions of the self. What emerges is the contiguity of the postcolonial, the modern and the modernist subject. This study engages with the concepts of “double consciousness” and “entanglements” to foreground the complex web and often conflicting temporalities, discourses and cultural assemblages affecting postcolonial subjectivities and unsettling narratives of origin and authenticity. While Naipaul seeks to address questions of postcolonial identity, his oeuvre is simultaneously entangled within the Anglophone literary tradition. The texts in this study foreground the convergence of the politics of writing and the politics of subjectivity. Through continuous re-writing of the self, the past and history, Naipaul focuses on the fragmentary, the partiality of knowledge and the obscurity of the present to evince the continuous renewal of subjectivities. His narratives enact deep feelings of despair and melancholy that attend the migrant position in the current age of mass migrations, technological advancement, militarism, and essentialised ethnocentrisms and cultural constructions. In his poetics of exile, he endorses the particular over the universal. His commitment to a “politics of difference” underscores the texts in this study and serves to foreground Naipaul’s position of otherness.