Naipaul's 'India': history and the myth of antiquity

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In Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s sequel to Empire, there is a fragment
called ‘Two Italians in India’. The two writers, Alberto Moravia and Pier
Paolo Pasolini, for these two theorists represent even in their differences
of attitude to India essentially an identical species or as they say, ‘fable of
the two faces of Eurocentrism: “They are utterly different from us” and
“They are just the same as us”’.2 The theorists end on a homiletic note
about the singular nature of Indian difference ‘in itself’. Indian singularity
is the perfect expression of the value these two place on the multitude, what
they call the ‘dynamic relation of the common’. In this article, I amgoing to
look at V. S. Naipaul’s writing on India. For Naipaul, difference prevents
the emergence of common interest. In Naipaul’s non-fictional strategy,
rendering the dynamic relation of the Indian multitude involves the mobilization
of India’s past. Unlike the three Italians and an American I began with, there is no way Naipaul can write about India’s spontaneous reality (Pasolini’s ‘l’odore dell’India’ or Moravia’s ‘un’idea dell’India’) without figuring India’s present in relation to its past. I am not making a case for any distended modern sense for India, neither am I concerned with the peculiar modality this sense might reproduce for domesticating India – in Hardt and Negri’s subtitle – for democracy in the age of empire. I am limiting myself to the specificity of Naipaul’s vision of India and the way India’s past, its singularity-in-difference, so to speak, intrudes into this vision.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-120
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jun 2006
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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