Readers of V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas will recognise how extensively the son borrowed from his father’s actual journalism to create both the character and newspaper career of Mohan Biswas. But it is not as a source book for V.S. Naipaul’s novel that this selection of Seepersad Naipaul’s reports and articles excels. In the first place, this is a collection of writing that through its vigour and inventiveness is in the first place extremely readable. It makes the case that the very best journalism has every right to be considered as seriously as literary fiction; in a country which has prized the newspaper columnist who combines insight with high style, Seepersad Naipaul claims the status of a pioneer. As a body of writing that extends over 25 years, however mundane the story to be covered, it reveals the persona of its author as a signal, developing and very recognisable voice as an observer of colonial Trinidad. Employed in the first place to report on the lives of “East Indians”, then an almost wholly unknown quantity to the vast majority of urban Trinidadians, Seepersad Naipaul’s columns and stories give an unrivalled picture of the various (not to say fissiparous) strands of Indian lives over the period in which they began to emerge into the wider economy, society and politics of the nation. And Seepersad Naipaul’s interests are nothing if not ecumenical. He writes with sympathetic interest, for instance, about the “Shouters”, the Spiritual Baptists just emerging from a long period of being banned. But it will probably be Seepersad Naipaul’s eye for the curious, not to say bizarre, in columns that will still entertain readers many decades after they were written. Meet Trinidad’s hermit Robinson Crusoe, and Trinidad’s ‘worst’ man.
Seepersad Naipaul, Amazing Scenes: Selected Journalism 1928-1953
Seepersad Naipaul's selected journalism gives an unrivalled portrayal of Indian Trinidad in the late colonial era and also allows us to appreciate to the astonishing literary inventiveness of an entirely self-taught man.
Trinidad and Tobago
09 Nov 2023