V. S. Naipaul stands as the most lionized literary mediator between First and Third-World experience and is ordinarily viewed as possessing a unique authority on the subject of cross-cultural relations in the post-colonial era. In contesting this orthodox reading of his work, Nixon argues that Naipaul is more than simply an unduly influential writer. He has become a regressive Western institution, articulating a set of values that perpetuates political interests and representational modes that have their origin in the high imperial age. Nixon uses Naipaul's travel writing to probe the core theoretical issues raised by cross-cultural representation along metropolitan-periphery lines. In successive chapters he explores the relation between multi-cultural identity and the rhetorical conventions of exile; the imperial undertow in travel writing as a genre; the tensions between ethnographic and autobiographical modes of authority; and the magnetic pull of the Conradian tradition in figuring the third World.
In the penultimate chapter, Nixon analyses the importance of the discourse of primitivism as a means of abrogating Third World experiences of historical change and, in particular, of minimalizing the role of indigenous resistance. Finally, with reference to economic theories of dependency, he critiques the vision, popularized by Naipaul, of the post-colonial world as divided between mimic and parasitic Third World nations on the one hand and, on the other, the benignly creative societies of the West.
"Somehow over the course of his 35-year career, V.S. Naipaul has developed into an almost extraliterary figure....Nixon's critique exposes the scantiness of this postcolonial emperor's attire with an eloquent combination of outrage and humor."--Village Voice
"A well-written, lucid challenge to the prevailing Anglo-American anointment of Naipaul as an 'expert' on the Third World at large....Nixon defines terms superbly, exhumes subtleties, and challanges standard thinking."--Georgia Review
This is the best of many books on Naipaul and a major contribution to postcolonial studies. Highly recommended."--Choice
"Rob Nixon has written a brilliant, compelling study of one of the finest and most misunderstood writers of the twentieth century. This work sheds new light on the entire body of Naipaul's writing, and sets an entirely new standard for Naipaul criticism and scholarship."--Arnold Rampersad, Princeton University
"Nixon's book reintroduces all the familiar arguments that expose Naipaul's ideological underpinnings, yet the clarity and consistency of its discourse--couched in elegant, forceful prose--evince freshness and novelty."--Modern Fiction Studies
"A book that subsequent writers on Naipaul will have to take into consideration."--Ariel