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The Middle Passage

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  319 ratings  ·  22 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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Alicia Beale
"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
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
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)
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
Helen Psaila
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!
Julie Pearson
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
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.
You can see in Naipaul's travel writing his genius of perception and description.
Eliane L
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Carol Lindsey
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.
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.
Cath Murphy
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.
Kobe Bryant
He writes real good about a bunch of depressing places. In the midst of change but seemingly frozen in place...
Just like "An Area of Darkness" - this is Naipaul's tour and observations of the Caribbean
A decent cross-section of observations of the Caribbean region in the (global) post-colonial era.
Brilliant writing, occasionally evil man.
snackywombat (v.m.)
Jul 08, 2008 snackywombat (v.m.) rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: meh
Too boring and dry to finish.
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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
“More than England to the British West Indian or even Holland to the Surinamer, France is the mother country to the Martiniquan.” 1 likes
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