Monday, February 19, 1996

India: A Wounded Civilization

by V.S. Naipaul

Naipul explains India, sort of.  A horribly critical book, quite racist (in the sense of making broad, derogatory generalizations about an entire people, using small amounts of evidence or even just hearsay), bordering on the vitriol of a KKK pamphlet.  And yet, a lot of what Naipaul points out seems correct.  He's an extremely sharp observer and doesn't have to make a big production out of how absurd some Indian policies are; he makes their absurdity come across by just describing them.  So he does make his point, and yet he does it so smugly, so self-assured, without reservation, that the criticism comes too hard.  The section where, for example, Naipaul is comparing individual Indians' thought to children's thought, on the basis of what some Uncle Tom of an Indian psychiatrist has reported to him, is repugnant.  But when Naipaul tells about an Indian attempt to "modernize" the bullock-cart or peasants' tools, he makes it clear why he called that chapter "A Defect of Vision."  He must have had a bad time in India.

three stars

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