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|Other Titles:||Uncomfortable Identity and Ethical Knowledge in V. S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival|
Department of English, NTNU
|Abstract:||Since its publication, V. S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival has been read as either a national allegory or English postcolonial literature. Based on the dual models, critics are prone to getting trapped in identity politics, unable to break away from the postcolonial interpretive framework. In this essay, I revisit the issue of identity from a transnational perspective in hopes of capturing the complexity and significance that Naipaul invests in his representation of identity in this novel. Specifically, I argue that Enigma mobilizes identity not so much as a fixated category but as a radically revisionary act of knowing the self. The perspectival oscillation between the narrating ‘I’ and the experiencing ‘I’ enables readers’ access into the narrator’s emotional responses to his uneven development, whereby he comes to a fruitful understanding of human identity. Through a series of vision and revision, Enigma enacts a cognitive process of inward self-examination that culminates in a kind of ethical knowledge, unravelling identity discomfort as a universal human experience at the global moment of cultural mixing in the second half of the twentieth century. Moreover, Naipaul’s deconstruction of identity executes a critique of his own formation and thereby illuminates the great significance of recognizing the self’s foreignness to himself in cultivating cultural cohesion in a multicultural society.|
|Appears in Collections:||Concentric: Studies in English Literature and Linguistics|
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