BOOK REVIEW: The Middle Passage – by V.S. Naipaul

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Title: The Middle Passage
Author: V.S. Naipaul
Genre: Travel, Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: 1962
Finished reading: July 31st 2014
Pages: 256
Rating 3

“I had seen how deep in nearly every West Indian, high and low, were the prejudices of race; how often these prejudices were rooted in self-contempt; and how much important action they prompted. Everyone spoke of nation and nationalism but no one was willing to surrender the priviledges or even the separateness of his group.”

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A friend of mine lend me a copy of The Middle Passage, and I’m glad I took the time to finish this travel memoir by V.S. Naipaul before I returned it to her. The Middle Passage was not my typical choice of reading and I have to admit I don’t know that much about Trinidad and the four Carribean societies mentioned (except for maybe Surinam because of its connection with Holland). What the countries have in common are the traces of slavery and colonialism, and that is what Naipaul focuses on in his book: the racial differences and the connections the former colonies have with their occupiers.

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It’s hard to give a proper summary of all the different countries without this review becoming a short novel itself, so I have decided to keep this short. In The Middle Passage, Naipaul takes you on a journey through five societies and former British, French and Dutch colonies. He tells us his experiences during his journey, and analyzes the situation in the different countries (Trinidad, British Guiana, Surinam, Martinique and Jamaica). Not every society has reacted to its occupiers in the same way, and while some reject the foreign cultures, others openly embrace it. There is also an enormous difference in racial acceptance between the different countries… With huge social consequences.

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The way Naipaul wrote down his story didn’t convince me fully, and I had to make myself continue at certain points where the story just became too slow to keep my attention. But I cannot deny it is an interesting story Naipaul is trying to tell. The fact that he was born and raised in Trinidad and later moved to London has a lot to do with that. Having lived in both ‘worlds’, he is able to blend in with the locals as well as having access to the insights of outsiders. I cannot judge properly if the comments he makes in The Middle Passage about the different societies, race problematics and inequality are accurate. What does become clear is that the book narrates his experiences when travelling through those countries; the difficulties on the way and the people he meets a sample of what the situation was like back then. Recommended to those who want to know more about the societies mentioned and enjoy reading non fiction travel memoirs.

WWW Wednesdays #7 – August 6th

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Originally featured at Should Be Reading… WWW WEDNESDAYS is all about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

theknownworldI just started The Known World by Edward P. Jones as part of the Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon… This one will fulfull the challenge of reading a book set in the past; it’s about a black farmer and former slave in the US. I cannot say much of it yet besides that it is nice to have a little time out of the horror genre.

 

 

  • What did you recently finish reading?

fliesI was able to finish Lord Of The Flies by William Golding today, and boy those were some screwed up kids! Definitely not what I was expecting of this classic… I’ve also finished The Shining by Stephen King, and both are part of the Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon. Reviews will be up before the weekend! (As well as the review of The Middle Passage by V.S. Naipaul I finished last week…)

 

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

mountainsIt’s probably going to be either And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini or The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss… It depends on my mood when I finish the book I’m currently reading. For now I cannot decide between the magical world of the Kingkiller chronicle and another surely mindblowing tale written by Hosseini… Any suggestions which I should read first?