When this pioneering collection of short stories was published in 1943, Seepersad Naipaul had years of practice in writing the most vivid journalism about Trinidad and Indian politics, and more recently the experience of working as a trained social worker, a role that gave him unequalled access to the lives of rural Indian Trinidadians – lives that were utterly unknown to the rest of the population. But whilst one element of Naipaul’s motivation in writing these stories was to offer a portrait of otherwise hidden lives, his most powerful wish was to achieve a reputation as a writer. And beyond the acute observations of a community in the process of change, and a deep (and sometimes satirical) empathy for the individual characters trying to make sense of their duality as Indians and Trinidadians, these are stories that show a sophisticated sense of shaping. They are not only still immensely readable but must be seen as important steps in the development of the Caribbean short story.
This collection prints in its entirety the collection that Seepersad Naipaul published in 1943, including those stories that V.S. Naipaul chose to omit in the collection of his father’s stories he published in 1976. In addition, this volume collects as an appendix the stories published in Caribbean magazines and newspapers and broadcast in the Caribbean Voices programme. In its perception that Indians in Trinidad had to embrace their hybridity, in its sympathetic treatment of women, and in its exploration of the inner worlds of a character such as Gopi – perhaps the nearest to a self-satirising portrait (and the story omitted by V.S. Naipaul) – this collection should restore Seepersad Naipaul – in his own right – as an essential figure in Caribbean fiction.
With an introduction by Kenneth Ramchand and Aaron Eastley