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The Middle Passage

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  400 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In 1960 the government of Trinidad invited V. S. Naipaul to revisit his native country and record his impressions. In this classic of modern travel writing he has created a deft and remarkably prescient portrait of Trinidad and four adjacent Caribbean societies–countries haunted by the legacies of slavery and colonialism and so thoroughly defined by the norms of Empire tha ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 8th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1962)
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Oct 10, 2016 Venky rated it liked it
Shelves: bibliocase
Reading "The Middle Passage" is akin to attempting parallel conversations with both Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. While the book reeks of astounding clarity, the illuminating bits are punctuated by a condescension that is to say the least, infuriating. The style is typical Naipaul - irascible, irreverent and yet, indispensable.

In 1960, V.S.Naipaul undertook a year long journey from London to the Caribbean, a land which not only represented his motherland, but also a region that had left him disillusio
Alicia Beale
Jan 25, 2012 Alicia Beale rated it really liked it
"Middle Passage" was my introduction to Naipaul and it occurred at the same moment I was being introduced to the Caribbean. I was attending a literary festival called Callabash which is where I brought the book. Naipaul had been bashed during a reading by Derek Walcott. It made me interested in this man considered to be a traitor to his homeland and the ethnic complexities of the Caribbean. The "Middle Passage" satisfied both curiosities. Naipaul's voice is exploratory and introspective. He draw ...more
Aug 30, 2013 Rita rated it it was ok
1962 -- amazing to think this is over 50 years ago, yet I think of Naipaul as a contemporary, and he is.

Need to keep in mind while reading this book that Naipaul was very young, undoubtedly struggling with his identity after growing up in Trinidad and moving to London. Could make a case for him personifying much of what he critically describes.

Sign of the times: during an overnight stopover in Antigua, he was extremely bored and wanted to write, but he had had to empty his pen [presumably a foun
Jun 23, 2016 Salvatore rated it liked it
Haters gonna hate, but Naipaul (Hater) actually finds things to appreciate in lands he otherwise finds to be empty, vapid, useless, lazy, parroting, held in self-contempt, etc etc. He might be able to deal with the culture and architecture of Georgetown, of Suriname.

Interesting to note that Naipaul documents the racial tensions in all of these islands, the people there wanting to stop immigration, fearing outsiders taking their jobs and ruining their nations. Sounds very familiar...

Marlon James
Yvonne (It's All About Books)
Finished reading: July 31st 2014
Rating 3

“I had seen how deep in nearly every West Indian, high and low, were the prejudices of race; how often these prejudices were rooted in self-contempt; and how much important action they prompted. Everyone spoke of nation and nationalism but no one was willing to surrender the priviledges or even the separateness of his group.”

(view spoiler)
Niall Fealty
Feb 19, 2017 Niall Fealty rated it really liked it
Fascinating account of the West Indies at that time (language definitely of a time and place...), very honest account of the effects of colonialism on the area
Shantanoo Desai
Aug 08, 2015 Shantanoo Desai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite often one picks up a book written about Travel memoirs and expects each word to the melodic and soothing to one's vigorous imagination of a distant land. Unlike anything as such, Naipaul, the master that he is with is words, gives a fantastic version of the Colonial impact in the Caribbean Islands. These islands were the lesser known places when one needs to understand Colonialism at it's very best.
Vidia Naipaul makes precise incisions in the societal impacts of the back then (in the 1960
Jul 15, 2007 Nerisse marked it as to-read
I was 14 when I attempted to read The Middle Passage for my book report. Awful, awful decision. I remember not understanding half (maybe more) of what Naipaul was describing. I didn't even know who Humphrey Bogart was at that time, or if he even was slightly significant to the story. You'd need a good background of social histories to fully grasp what he's trying to describe as the travel goes along. Otherwise, you're left with lengthy descriptions of (probably) unfamiliar settings, characters, ...more
Julie Pearson
Feb 01, 2012 Julie Pearson rated it it was ok
Naipaul certainly has a gift for seamlessly weaving several vignettes together. Despite his writing skill, I was left disappointed in this travelogue. His neo-colonialist political views and occasional racist sentiments turned this story quite bitter. Coupled with Naipaul's rampant pessimism, this book reads more like a highly biased account of one man's feelings toward a homeland he abandoned.
I would cautiously recommend the book to those that like to critically read a text and compare it to ot
Carmen Thong
May 15, 2016 Carmen Thong rated it really liked it
Controversial, but very well written. Really related to some of his observations, though they are admittedly cruel. But it seems to me that sometimes only those who live in First World countries can afford to scarecrow Naipaul for saying *some* of the things he did - from their relative safety, they might not understand the weight of emotions and criticism that one might feel for one's own corrupt and/or exploited country.
a mar-ve-lous account of a tour through trinidad, then british guyana, surinam, martinique, and jamaica. the observation and commentary on race relations and the continuous references to a colonial/imperialized past provided an insight into the atmosphere of these places that is only possible from this author. i don't generally choose non-fiction for pleasure, but i would read this book a hundred times on the beach.
Jul 28, 2012 Ed rated it really liked it
The other side of Franz Fanon's view of colonialism and the colonized. Naipaul views the African and Indian lumpen proletariat of Trinidad, Jamaica, British Guyana, Martinique and Surinam. While realizing the legacy of slavery and colonialism in creating the material and cultural structures of these tiny countries he views their degradation with both despair and disgust.

Naipaul writes brilliantly and corrosively.
Eliane L
May 05, 2012 Eliane L rated it liked it
A glimpse of Caribbean societies in transition, The Middle Passage is the tale of VS Naipaul's journey to five Caribbean countries in 1960, as they are negotiating their post-colonial identities. Judgemental, pessimistic and haughty in tone, the novel conveys Naipaul's deep disdain for his native country of Trinidad and its neighbors. Of historical value and well written for travel literature, but not an especially likable piece.
Oct 26, 2007 Ianto rated it really liked it
A trenchant, expansive look at the West Indies in the early 1960s. Naipaul doesn't mince words about West Indian society - he basically called Trinidad a backwater without any real culture - but he's always interesting, and he visits parts of the region that are rarely discussed (Suriname, Martinique, Guyana). Great travel writing.
Rupert Lewis
Jan 04, 2013 Rupert Lewis rated it really liked it
Naipaul 's travel writing started with this volume and his skills as a narrator of landscape are evident especially in his description of Guyana. Has a good feel for ethnic and social structure in the Trinidad chapter and his intense dislike and prejudice against ordinary people still shocking. The writing is of high quality.
Jan 01, 2017 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A powerful and illuminating book about a region I have never visited and know little about. The focus is on race relations, which is dissected in minute detail. Having grown up in South Africa under Apartheid, the obsession with race took me back to my past, and not in a pleasant way. Beautiful writing and plenty of incisive insights
Evander v
Jul 30, 2016 Evander v marked it as dropped  ·  review of another edition
A lot of the narrative in the pages I read were a bit ... iffy to me. Further research shows Naipaul is an anti-black misogynist among other things, and frankly I now have no desire to read any of his books.
Truly remarkable. Naipaul's observations are so tight, and taut, that he hardly needs commentary. And, remarkably, one finishes at Frenchman's Cove with him, truly liking him: liking him for his analysis, his reactions, his underlying compassion.
Carol Lindsey
Aug 26, 2012 Carol Lindsey rated it it was amazing
If you find your library lacks diversity, consider this novel. Of course the Author is acclaimed, but this gem is less well- known. My family is Trinidadian, so I am biased, but it is clear that Naipal is not weighed down by nostalgia. I give this book 4 stars because it is truly outstanding.
Feb 24, 2009 Shane rated it really liked it
Just like "An Area of Darkness" - this is Naipaul's tour and observations of the Caribbean
Helen Psaila
Aug 23, 2014 Helen Psaila rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book about the slave ships...a young black man joins a slave ship out of New Orleans and barely survives...both emotionally and physically. Very moving read. Highly recommended!
snackywombat (v.m.)
Mar 12, 2007 snackywombat (v.m.) rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: meh
Too boring and dry to finish.
Apr 09, 2014 James rated it liked it
You can see in Naipaul's travel writing his genius of perception and description.
May 01, 2010 Danielle rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Brilliant writing, occasionally evil man.
Jul 19, 2009 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
A decent cross-section of observations of the Caribbean region in the (global) post-colonial era.
Apr 06, 2015 Joseph rated it it was amazing
More and more, when I don't know what to read next, I default to something by Naipaul that I haven't read yet. I have not gone wrong yet.
Cath Murphy
Mar 21, 2011 Cath Murphy rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Dated if readable account of VS Naipaul's 1960's journey to the Caribbean. Interesting if only to note how attitudes to race have changed.
Mar 07, 2013 Martine marked it as to-read
Kobe Bryant
Jun 30, 2012 Kobe Bryant rated it really liked it
He writes real good about a bunch of depressing places. In the midst of change but seemingly frozen in place...
Somewhat acerbic reflection; descriptive, perceptive and personal.
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine edition of The Middle Passage (V.S. Naipaul) 3 10 Jul 07, 2013 06:53PM  
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi
More about V.S. Naipaul...

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“Reality is always separate from the ideal; but in Trinidad this fantasy is a form of masochism and is infinitely more cheating than the fantasy which makes the poor delight in films about rich or makes the English singer use and American accent.” 1 likes
“For when one thinks of Guiana one thinks of a country whose inadequate resources are strained in every way, a country whose geography imposes on it an administration and a programme of public works out of all proportion to its revenue and population. One thinks of the sea-wall, forever being breached and repaired; the dikes made of mud for want of money; the dirt roads and their occasional experimental surfacing; the roads that are necessary but not yet made; the decadent railways ('Three-fourths of the passenger rolling stock,' says a matter-of-fact little note in the government paper on the Development Programme, 'is old and nearing the point beyond which further repairs will be impossible'); the three overworked Dakotas and two Grumman seaplanes of British Guiana Airways. And one thinks of the streets of Albouystown, as crowded with children as a schoolyard during recess.” 1 likes
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