The consensus that the postcolonial writer must be on the side of the oppressed prevents critics from grasping the original ways in which V. S. Naipaul’s untypical writings are attuned to the historical predicament of the periphery. Naipaul’s premise is that subjects in the periphery are shaped by complex pasts that they are not well placed to comprehend. For historical reasons, peripheral societies lack the institutions and practices required for an adequate grasp of modernity’s profoundly disruptive effects. The globalizing forms of colonialism and capitalism diverted the social trajectories of the peasant formations of the precapitalist world. According to Naipaul, these deranging effects are precisely what the peripheral artist excavates. Writers born of this historical milieu must, in his view, also note how their work partakes of the order it describes. Those who explore their formation in this way may discover new ways of seeing the affiliations between subjected parts of the world. In this light, derangement also assumes a productive force: it makes available new perspectives derived from shared but diverse expressions of peripheral historicity. The fundamental significance of Naipaul’s writing lies in its inauguration of a style of peripheral reflection.

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