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4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful
Having read this book I can see why V.S Naipaul is considered such a magnificent writer. I found his descriptions of the Caribbean societies sharp and insightful. He skilfully blended the brutal slave history and the later indentured labour system that founded these communties to explain both the strengths and weaknesses of the communities that emerged during the times of...
Published 6 months ago by Nico

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but distant
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2001, wrote this summary of his observations travelling through the Caribbean area where he was born just after his famous novel, "A House for Mr. Biswas". This book was his first published nonfiction, and although the typical themes of Naipaul (migration, racial issues, legacy of colonialism)...
Published on 11 May 2009 by M. A. Krul


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but distant, 11 May 2009
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Middle Passage (Paperback)
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2001, wrote this summary of his observations travelling through the Caribbean area where he was born just after his famous novel, "A House for Mr. Biswas". This book was his first published nonfiction, and although the typical themes of Naipaul (migration, racial issues, legacy of colonialism) play the main roles in his observations, this work is generally not as interesting and succesful as his fictional depictions of the same issues.

In "The Middle Passage", Naipaul describes how he travels from the UK, where he had been living for ten years, back to his homeland of Trinidad, and onward to Guyana (then British), Suriname (then Dutch), Martinique, and Jamaica. The main part of the book depicts his experiences in Trinidad itself. Naipaul is generally critical but not unsympathetic to the different racial-ethnic groups found in the Caribbean and their struggles to overcome the legacy of colonialism, and clearly does his best to be fair and objective to all involved. Nonetheless, it is noticable his instinctive sympathies are mostly with the Indians in the Caribbean like himself, and his depictions particularly of black Caribbeans have been criticized, among others by Edward Said for perpetuating racist mythology. These charges may be somewhat exaggerated, as Naipaul definitely does not deny them their agency or their attempts at political improvement; but one can note that he tends to portray the colonial and postcolonial situation as more rosy than it really was, and there is some sense of fear of "barbarian self-rule in civilization", of the kind one found in South Africa that Coetzee so effectively described.

What's more, the impressions and events within the travel stories themselves lose their sharpness due to the lack of real structure - nothing really happens to Naipaul at any point, he just travels around and sees various places, repeatedly making the same observations about the Caribbean without this having much direct connection with the situation he is in. His moving around from one part of the region to another does add some flavor, and there are occasional passages that are gripping and interesting, such as the tense situation regarding black Caribbean migrants to the UK as they board the ship Naipaul is on, and also his travels to a village deep in the Amazon forest, where everyone is Seventh Day Adventist and dying of disease. But on the whole, both the travel descriptions and Naipaul's reflections fail to be sufficiently sharp and meaningful the way a travel book needs. It is still a well-written and readable book, but by no means great literature.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, 14 Feb 2014
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Nico (Australia) - See all my reviews
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Having read this book I can see why V.S Naipaul is considered such a magnificent writer. I found his descriptions of the Caribbean societies sharp and insightful. He skilfully blended the brutal slave history and the later indentured labour system that founded these communties to explain both the strengths and weaknesses of the communities that emerged during the times of his travel.

By no means could Naipaul be viewed as a star struck witness to the decolonisation process which was occurring at the time of his travels. Naipaul in fact was almost as negative about future independence as he was of the colonial past. In many respects history has shown his foreboding to be correct. Despite this the suggestion that Naipaul is at times overly negative about Afro-Carribean society is probably fair particularly in contrast to the Indo-Carribean community.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to there readers.
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3.0 out of 5 stars travel book laced with his sense of failure and despair, 23 May 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Middle Passage (Paperback)
This makes for some pretty dreary reading. Over 30 years ago, Naipal headed for his old home with a sense of foreboding and depression. These are interesting for what they tell of the emotional sources of his novels, in particular Mr. Biswas, so are worth a read by his most devoted fans, of which I am one. But looking at this as a reading experience, I must say that it is not as good as many of his other books. Indeed, I sometimes felt he was straining to add drama, rather than what I expect as the treasure of interesting and unusual observations that I am accustomed to finding in his books. It is, as always, beautifully written and vivid.

Recommended with these caveats in mind.
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The Middle Passage: Impressions of five colonial societies
The Middle Passage: Impressions of five colonial societies by V. S. Naipaul (Paperback - 17 Jun 2011)
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