43 Sanjay Krishnan on V. S. Naipaul: To make the Deformation the Formation (JP)

“My subject was not my inward self, but…the worlds within me.”

Sanjay Krishnan, Boston University English professor and Conrad scholar, has written a marvelous new book about that grumpiest of Nobel laureates, V. S Naipaul’s Journeys. Krishnan sees the “Contrarian and unsentimental” Trinidad-born but globe-trotting novelist and essayist as early and brilliant at noticing the unevenness with which the blessings and curses of modernity were distributed in the era of decolonization. Centrally, Naipaul realized and reckoned with the always complex and messy question of the minority within postcolonial societies.

He talks with John about Naipaul’s early focus on postcolonial governments, and how unusual it was in the late 1950’s for colonial intellectuals to focus on “the discomfiting aspects of postcolonial life….and uneven consequences of the global transition into modernity.” Most generatively of all, Sanjay insists that the “troublesome aspect is what gives rise to what’s most positive in Naipaul.”

Photo of Sanjay Krishnan by Cydney Scott for Boston University Photography

Discussed in the Episode

Chinua Achebe, There Was a Country (2012)

George Lamming, e.g. (In the Castle of My Skin, 1953)

V. S. Naipaul, The Suffrage of Elvira (1957)

Miguel Street (1959)

Area of Darkness (1964)

The Mimic Men (1967)

A Bend in the River (1979)

V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (1961)
V. S. Naipaul, In a Free State (1971)

Aya Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968)

Derek Walcott, “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory” Nobel Acceptance Speech

Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)

Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back (1989 theoretical work on postcolonialism)

Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (2008)

Marlon James (eg. The Book of Night Women, 2009)

Beyonce, “Formation

Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1961)

Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North (1966)

Willa Cather “Two Friends” in Obscure Destinies

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Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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