Title

V. S. Naipaul and the Worlds of Postcolonial Realism

Department

English

Document Type

Article

Publication Source

The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Epub ahead of print.

Publication Date

2018-11-14

Abstract

V. S. Naipaul’s career as a novelist, travel writer, and journalist presents a case study for exploring the links between realist form and the global imagination as they evolve over a 60-year period. This article argues that his work is shaped by an aesthetic of “world realism” that constructs plausible models, through form and content, of the contemporary world as a totalized, structurally-differentiated system. At the same time, it examines how Naipaul’s realism mediates the divisions between metropolitan and peripheral space that shape his entry into the world-literary sphere. Analysed in these terms, Naipaul’s career falls into three phases, in each of which a distinctive “world-concept” emerges from the conjunction of historical and biographical events, and aesthetic contradictions. Naipaul’s world realism complicates critiques in postcolonial studies that he is a puppet of imperial ideology, and unveils the latent commitment to totality underpinning the global novel. World realism reflects an under-theorized conjunction of aesthetics and the global imaginary that unlocks an alternative history of the modern novel produced in frontier spaces.

Keywords

literary realism, novel theory, postcolonial literature, V. S. Naipaul, world realism

DOI

10.1177/0021989418807999

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