chapter  4
18 Pages

A Child and a Stranger: On Growing out of English Culture

There are all too many intellectual aids to these very self-conscious reflections. How tempting to reach out for concepts like ‘marginality’, ‘rootlessness’, ‘alienation’, ‘cultural schizophrenia’. How nice to dwell on the cool dissections of Sartre’s ‘Anti-Semite and Jew’; or to revel in the passionate pages of Baldwin, Cleaver, Fanon, on being a black man in a white man’s civilisation. Most seductive of all I have found the writings of V. S. Naipaul-the novels and the personal statements-which show individuals, and Naipaul himself, ‘in a free state’: aliens between cultures, with no social anchorages, no significant environment against which to shape out a confident and hopeful identity. There are plainer reasons for looking to Naipaul. Like him, I am a West Indian Indian. Like him, I have spent the greater part of my life in this country. There, unfortunately, the resemblance stops. How strong the inclination to seek in the strength and subtleties of his thought and expression the articulations of my own position.