VS Naipaul on Derek Walcott
When he first read Derek Walcott's poems, VS Naipaul was overwhelmed by the talent of his fellow West Indian, who, at the age of 18, was already a master. The young poet had created a new language to describe both the beauty and the limitations of island life.
Needless to say, I was surprised at Naipaul’s magnanimity (Walcott has dubbed him "VS Nightfall" in "The Spoiler's Return") and these two passages:
Reading these poems in London in 1955, I thought I could understand how important Pushkin was to the Russians, doing for them what hadn't been done before. I put the Walcott as high as that.
The poet I cherished was the user of language, the maker of startling images, intricate and profound, a man only two years older than I was, but already at 18 or 19 a kind of master, casting a retrospective glow on things I had known six or seven or eight years before.
Also, from a man who claims not to have a feel for poetry, Naipaul offers some useful insights about Walcott’s early poems:
It is an unpeopled landscape, though, in that first book. There are no villages, no huts, no local faces brought up close. The poet stands alone…The poet, churned up by his sensibility, walks alone….It is actually possible to feel that without the black idea, the pool of distress, always available, in which the poet could refresh himself, the unpeopled landscape would be insupportable.
And when, in the 1940s, middle-class people with no home but the islands began to understand the emptiness they were inheriting (before black people claimed it all) they longed for a local culture, something of their very own, to give them a place in the world.
Walcott in 1949 more than met their need. He sang the praises of the emptiness; he gave it a kind of intellectual substance. He gave their unhappiness a racial twist that made it more manageable.
Frances-Anne, I hope you’ll kick-off the discussion and I hope others will join in.
Synchronicity? (9:45pm): Kwame Dawes on the article over at Harriet
I’ll be coming back to the article on Monday, but in case you also want more, more, more Naipaul, here are a few others about Naipaul via Antilles:
Nicholas Shakespeare reviews A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling by VS Naipaul.
Amit Chaudhuri is fascinated by the Lawrentian echoes in VS Naipaul's A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling
A magus grown mellow
Even as VS Naipaul's A Writer's People damns certain authors, his praise of others, when it eventually comes, is both wholehearted and perceptive, says Chandrahas Choudhury.
Few writers get up noses like VS Naipaul, but his views on Islam, Gandhi and English Lit courses have a ring of truth.