Thursday, August 30, 2007

Caribbean Odyssey | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books

Caribbean Odyssey | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books: "When he first read Derek Walcott's poems, VS Naipaul was overwhelmed by the talent of his fellow West Indian, who, at the age of 18, was already a master. The young poet had created a new language to describe both the beauty and the limitations of island life"

In an essay, V.S. Naipaul remembers the early years of the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott, who gave to Trinidad what European colonialism, slavery and sugar denied it: a new language to describe the beauty and limitations of island life. "He sang the praises of the emptiness; he gave it a kind of intellectual substance. He gave their unhappiness a racial twist that made it more manageable. Then he went stale on them. He exhausted the first flush of his talent; nothing more seemed to be coming; and he became ordinary, a man in need of a job. He was too good for the job on the Trinidad Sunday Guardian, doing a weekly cultural article; and in 1960, when I was in Trinidad on a visit, he told me that someone had said to him, 'Walcott, you've been promising for too damn long, you know.' He told it as a joke, but it wouldn't have been a joke for him. From this situation he was rescued by the American universities; and his reputation there, paradoxically, then and later, was not that of a man whose talent had been all but strangled by his colonial setting. He became the man who had stayed behind and found beauty in the emptiness from which other writers had fled: a kind of model, in the eyes of people far away."

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