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India and the Diasporic Imagination

Rita Christian
Judith Misrahi-Barak

To Go Home, or not to Go Home

The (Im-)Possibility of Backtracking in M. G. Vassanji’s The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

Chun Fu


Unlike V. S. Naipaul whose infamous renunciation of the past in A Bend in the River, M. G. Vassanji’s decolonization story emphasizes the importance of the past. Given Vassanji’s diaspora experience, this paper underscores the notion of ‘other Asians’ expounded by Gayatri Spivak to crack wider the diaspora interstice. ‘In-between’, pregnant with meanings, bespeaks para-sites (without negative implication), which in turn suggest proximities of both places so much so that this unique intermediary spot pushes outward within the niche. In other words, the Indian diaspora’s imagination endows the real with a material base to substantiation. In-between the past and the present, thus, has less to do with the existential blight Vik Lall and his peers experience than with diaspora trajectories in the future. To better understand it in botanical terms, the deeper the roots delve, the lusher and more exuberant the diaspora foliage is. ‘The (im) possibility of backtracking in The In-Between World of Vikram Lall’ contends that the past is a necessary evil.

Texte intégral

The parallel tracks shot from the horizon
Like extended hands
Will take me to the future.
Yu Kuang-chung1

Whether it was possible to backtrack to that
where all went wrong, or if in fact it was the case
that we are all doomed to walk in a forest in which
all paths lead one equally astray, there being no end
to the forest.
Joseph O’Neill

1M. G. Vassanji, though an award-winning novelist, remains relatively unknown and unexplored in Taiwan academia. One master thesis, however, successfully contributes to the extant scholarship of Vassanji. Wu Chun-hsien argues that by re-narrating the Mau Mau rebellion based on the experience of East African Asians, Vassanji represents how East African Asians’ ‘in-between’ position complicates the dominant way of memorializing the rebellion as a binarist black-white racial clash. To begin with a review of the challenge posed by the in-between position, this paper intends to reflect the centrifugal trajectory typical of any diaspora and explore what it means to backtrack in the novel.

2Most critics tend to understand the in-between world involves Vikram Lall, the main character caught in an intense conflict between his friendship with an African and his father’s avowed allegiance to the British colonial government, as between two geographical sites, social strata, moral or political choices and cultures. Michael Twaddle regards Vikram’s in-betweenness as resulting in a particular historical inevitability of ‘white officials and settlers liv[ing] at the top of the colonial hierarchy, black Africans sur-viv[ing] at its base, and brown settlers fitt[ing] themselves into the middle’ (111). The same historical vortex propels Vikram’s father into the Home Guards service who were defending themselves from Mau Mau violence. In other words, East African Asians see themselves a political ally of the British colonizers. The other man young Vikram respects and admires, Mahesh Uncle, however, chooses to side with the oppressed Africans. Vikram’s in-betweenness, as Wu observes, is one of ‘his father’s total submission to colonialism and his uncle’s radical anti-colonial activism’ (63-4). Leela Jacinto also subscribes to the notion of ‘the hidden brown buffer zone between blacks and whites’ (31). In the same vein, Amin Malak entitles his reading of Vassanji’s work ‘ambivalent affiliations’. While there is nothing wrong in placing Vikram between two racial or political positions, this paper contends that the use of two temporalities—the past Vikram intends to leave behind and the present that keeps dragging him backward in time—is ingenious. It both accords with the principles of confessional memoir writing and paves the way for the novelist’s critique of the ever encroaching epistemic violence and the new protectionism in the wake of present global economic slowdown.

3In the beginning of the novel, the narrator Vikram admits that as time progresses, so does his understanding, from ignorance to a belated awareness.

I have even come upon a small revelation—and as I proceed daily to recall and reflect, and lay out on the page, it is with an increasing conviction of its truth, that if more of us told our stories to each other, where I come from, we would be a far happier and less nervous people. (1)

4The significance of this passage lies in the fact that both ‘to recall and reflect’ becomes a therapy to his affliction caused by the particular history and place he is in and it sets the tone for the entire narrative. In his confessional memoir Vikram realizes that ‘my times were exceptional and they would leave no one unscathed’ (1). Vikram and his likes are the products of a particular history, and it is by reclaiming the past history that he could be ‘far happier and less nervous.’ Unlike most critics’ placement of Vikram’s political stances, locations and cultures, I see Vikram’s in-betweenness manifested in time present and time past in that this in-betweenness is not only a critical oversight but also a promising terrain to explore. This paper asks what the past means to Vikram and his creator and in what ways the sway of the past is brought to the present in the novel. What does it signify to return to a past that has already vanished and by so doing what light might it shed on the present moment? How would a renewed understanding of the present modify the reminisced past? Moreover, could it be possible for the confessor to come to terms with himself by claiming such a past? I’d argue that hopping in-between the past and the present also calls into question a firm belief in patriotism as well as uncritically following religious doctrines, social and cultural conventions and castism. This paper also contends that the in-between status afflicting the young Vikram could be seen paradoxically as an empowerment for in-between neither-nor status being a double negation which cuts both ways, so much so that this position also enables him to critique parochialism. The in-between position is then endowed with a radicality in the sense of excess, parasite and mutual exclusion so that it can challenge the categorical (binarism). To explore this in-between inscription, I intend to bring to light Vikram’s attempt at redressing a wrong to which he had been blind, and the message implied as the novelist’s caveat to the world at large.

5The past taking on different forms corresponds to the development of Vikram’s career and changes in and around him. In his childhood his grandfather stands for the past he comes to know. As an eight-year-old accompanying his grandfather and Juma Molabuxon on Sunday afternoon for a walk in Nakuru, Vikram feels excluded from what the old men once shared, namely, railroad construction indentureship.

I did not know of any relationship like these two old men’s, their utter familiarity with each other, their constant chatter followed by a long silence except for the sound of their short breaths and the taps of their walking sticks, and then the sudden effortless resumption of their conversation, as if an engine had simply been allowed to idle awhile and was now back in gear. (68)

6It is understandable that the alienated feeling he has is due to the age difference from those of the old men. Theirs is a history, of which he is simply too young to be a part. However, he is not entirely out of the sway of such a historical vortex.

7For the young Vikram, the grandfather becomes the past embodied. Their walk is not toward any commercial or shaded area in the village, but to the railroad station, whose completion they definitely contributed. The railroad station is carefully depicted as one shrouded in a particular ambience—‘beckoned like a magnet and every few times the old men succumbed and turned toward it’ (69)— and the narrative slowly unveils the historical entanglement that puzzles the young Vikram. Though Vikram is too young to participate in the old men’s past, he unfailingly detects changes occur to his grandfather when he comes face to face with the locomotive, that is, his own past. Moments such as these make him speculate on what goes into his grandfather’s mind, ‘On these strolls with Juma-dada another person came out from inside him like a genie’ (69). Now, the locomotive in front of him awakens his dormant past that works magic on the old man. The narrative time can thus be layered into 1) the present as the criminal escapee reminisces in Canada, 2) a past as the episode in Nakuru Railroad Station is disclosed, and 3) the past when the grandfather Anand Lall worked as an indenture labourer. Time flows but, to facilitate our analysis and understanding, can be segmented into slices. Another transformed past shows up at the time when his grandfather and his chum are severely humiliated because they mindlessly step into the Europeans-only Railway Restaurant. Such a treatment to the old men brings him close to tears. This frustration, however, is soon soothed by the respect and honors the station master showers on this veteran couple. The past apparently takes on different meanings, whose complete comprehension is so far beyond the innocent child.

8Because the past undergoes a series of transformations, it becomes impossible for Vikram to backtrack the family history. From the Europeans-only Railway Restaurant to the EAR (East African Railway) locomotive, these strollers have ridden an emotional roller-coaster. While it is difficult to extricate the entanglements between the past and the present, the past’s various manifestations can easily be grasped. Witnessing the white-supremacy rule symbolized by the restaurant disparages the former Indian coolies as if the past does not count or deserve to be respected. Obviously, for the former coolies the railroad symbolizes honor and achievements, but for the white Europeans something that should be buried and forgotten. Contrary to the past and its negative association the former coolies encounter, Vikram’s future seems bright at this stage. This reservation underwrites the fact that Vikram’s future can hardly be severed from a past from which he is descended. Tembo the Goan fireman lifts Vikram to ride in the cabin and says in passing: ‘Let him come inside and see, these days who’s interested in trains, it’s all aeroplanes for the little guys’ (71). As the child’s dream is ready to take wings, reality pulls him downwards. In other words, he is invested with an anachronistic quality so much so that the in-between world of Vikram Lall is one swings between two temporal ends of the past and the present.

  • 2 The gunny sack is also the title of Vassanji’s first novel published in 1989, which won the Commonw (...)

9The past in The In-between World of Vikram Lall is an integral and hence a crucial part of the narrative as it appears in various forms and is impregnated with meanings. One may equally see the past as one of the characters whom Vikram constantly seeks to address in his reminiscence and recollection and which accordingly changes its forms and significance as it exposes new light to the memoirist. In her reading of The Book of Secrets Donna Bailey Nurse observes that the past is molded as a void of which ‘Vassanji hopes to fill the gaps’ (82). In The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, the past is likewise given an imperative: ‘How the past is slipping away; soon the untold stories among the old Molabuxes and the Lalls would simply have disappeared into the winds’ (284). However, in his attempt at backtracking Vikram faces another backlash. The past, as Vikram sees it, is full of holes, resembling the gunny sack. In other words, the past is always elusive and slippery.2 To backtrack the path trodden does not mean to reclaim the past per se, rather it is for the sake of the present, as adumbrated in Nurse’s ‘for Vassanji’s characters, the past works as a touchstone, and memories of home, the assurance that one can go back, instills courage’ (82). Undoubtedly, the past works magic, but the relationship between memories of home and courage requires further explication.

10Vikram needs courage not to face the Mau Mau atrocities, but to better prepare himself for the disparities between his past ignorance and present understanding. Vikram’s reminiscence of his father’s lost gun years later demonstrates that added information of the past would contribute not to renewed understanding in the present, but to disillusionment. Ashok Lall’s gun represents law and order in colonial Kenya and a force to curb the Mau Mau insurgency. Vassanji scrupulously arranges such a lost-and-found subplot both to accentuate that theirs is a time of turmoil and change and to bring to the fore how precarious the in-between position could actually be. An African becomes a scapegoat to close the investigation of Ashok’s misdemeanor, but the truth is not revealed until years later when the father and son recall how brutally the Bruces are murdered. The temporal disparity is manifested in the time the event happens and in the time the couple remembers the event. For convenience, let us isolate moments as if they were frozen, by labeling them event-past and remembering-past. After the loss is discovered in the event-past, Vikram glimpses something shiny and metallic clenched in Mahesh Uncle’s hands and keeps the secret to himself. Then, when his beloved childhood playmates Bill and Annie are butchered with their parents, he neither associates their death with the missing gun nor resists being led into what Lorrain York called ‘the ironies of history’ (198). The murder of the Bruces heralds the end of racial harmony and draws Vikram’s innocent childhood to an abrupt end. Vikram is portrayed as one with half-knowledge since he knows certain aspects of an event and remains ignorant of the whole picture. Under such premises, he is gradually led into the in-between world of good and evil.

11However, when the remembering-past collides with the event-past, understanding explodes out of a talk between father and son. His father reveals to him that the found gun is ballistically proven to be the murder weapon used in killing the Bruces. The added fragment of information knocks Vikram out of his blind devotion in believing Mahesh Uncle’s noble cause. Interestingly, what is thought to be good turns out to be evil and impels him to serious self-doubt, and worse, self-delusion. The remembering-past hits Vikram hard and he feels betrayed by the justice embodied by Mahesh Uncle. Quagmired in this in-between good and evil, Vikram can do nothing but plunges headlong, without remorse, into the intermediary role to facilitate the rolling of foreign aid monies into the pocket of the autocrat and that of his own so that he wins the notorious label of ‘the most corrupt man in Africa.’ The past changes in the sense that in retrospection one can alter and modify what one believes and accordingly redress the wrong, just like Vikram does.

12To look upon what Vikram has been through, one has to admit that it requires tremendous courage to face what he has to face. It is the kind of courage he needs when facing an imperfect past he is a part of so that he can come to terms with himself eventually. A greater courage, however, is needed to accept the cruel hard fact that he is after all an ordinary person with defects and imperfections. He confesses at the beginning of the novel, ‘how I came upon my career and my distinction is a surprise even to me’ (1). He seems to realize that there are things beyond his control and concludes that ‘my times were exceptional and they would leave no one unscathed’ (1). However, judging from the road taken, one can fairly say that the novelist molds his character as a man true to himself. From the accidental discovery in his childhood—‘I couldn’t help feeling that both Bill and Njoroge were genuine, in their very different ways; only I, who stood in the middle, Vikram Lall, cherished son of an Indian grocer, sounded false to myself, rang hollow like a bad penny’ (54)— to his final choice to return in the form of memoir writing, his intention to be in such an in-between position is obvious for memoir is a genre that fuses the present inscription with events in the past, i.e., in-between remembering and writing. It has everything to do with history, whose etymological roots ’histoire’ means to write. To write a past at present may sound paradoxical, but it testifies to the temporal collapse in memoir writing.

13From the three epigraphs taken from three different cultures—Eliot, Upanishad, and Swahili riddle—it is evident that different cultures nurture Vassanji’s literary career, and the fact that he can move comfortably in and out of these cultures is also reflected in his works. Leela Jacinto perceives that ‘by naming his main Kikuyu character Njoroge—whose namesake in Ngugi’s Weep Not, Child also grows up during the Mau Mau rebellion— Vassanji appears to be raising his literary hat to Kenya’s preeminent postcolonial writer’ (32-3). By paying tribute to his African literary predecessor does not mean Vassanji is uncritical of him. Jacinto further observes that ‘in his complex, politically ambivalent portrayal of Africa’s Asian community, Vassanji appears to be mocking Ngugi’s depiction of Kenyan society through the Manichean prisms of class struggle and nationalism’. (33)

14In an interview with Jamie Jameson, Vassanji claims that ‘he has avoided reading Naipaul lest he be influenced’ (129). Anyone familiar with Naipaul’s works knows for sure this is only his understatement. Vikram, having gone through all of this historical turmoil and secrets, finally claims:

To me the world is what it was, a far from perfect and a tangled manifold. It was not for me to change this world. Moral judgments, therefore, I shied away from, and this became the secret of my success. (333, my italics)

  • 3 A Bend in the River opens with ’The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves (...)

15Readers familiar with Naipaul’s oeuvre will never fail to identify that ‘the world is what it is’ matches exactly with the opening of A Bend in the River as well as with the title of the senior’s authorized biography which was released last year.3 A Bend in the River is a dark story set in post-independent Zaire. The reason I point out Naipaul’s influence on Vassanji is to suggest that Vassanji shares with his predecessor a Hinduistic philosophical outlook. Vassanji, however, is less dark than Naipaul in his depiction of post-independent African countries, whose darkness Derek Walcott once called ‘nightfall’ (433). Speaking of his multiple identities in an interview with Benedicte Page, Vassanji claims himself to be an African, though with strings attached:

I have stopped asking myself what I am; at some point I realise that it doesn’t matter how you define yourself… In my heart I am still very much an African, but I have lived in Canada for a long time and it feels like home. At some point in your life you realise there are several homes. (32)

16The in-between position Vassanji opts for falls within the hyphens linking India-Canada-Tanzania. He snuggles in-between these countries rather than sticking to any parochialism.

17The past can also be interpreted as something with which Vikram seeks to be reconciled. Once the relationship is mended, his present can be ‘far happier and less nervous’ (1). To return to the past in remembrance does not mean that he has reached a peace accord with the past. The present and the past are contingent on each other; one without the other will be meaningless. A man caught in-between worlds, Vikram can better be understood as one who is hopping in-between two temporalities. The structure of the novel also testifies to this observation as at the end of almost every chapter the present narrator intrudes and comments on the effects of the past upon the present. The in-between world of Vikram Lall is, therefore, the Kenyan past he was a part of, which was left behind, and the present from which he constantly hops back to in order to fully understand why he is here in Canada. In her ‘A History Refusing to Be Enclosed’, Wu maintains that ‘ending the novel with the disturbing image of Vikram’s unknown fate amidst a blazing fire, Vassanji alerts us to the fact that history has not yet been ’enclosed’— our project of memorializing the past is still going on’ (74). The past will continue to haunt Vikram’s present in the sense that shuffling in-between temporalities can be seen as a refusal to be enclosed, i.e., a movement as a resistance against epistemic categorization.

18In addition to its usual transportation function, the train in the novel also works as a carrier of memory. The train can carry young Vikram’s dreams to elsewhere, as mentioned in the previous section. It also seals the bond between grandfather and grandson. Railroad building brought the old generation from their homeland to a place overseas. The train enables the grandfather to take roots in the African soil at the expense of forever losing his homeland in the same way that Peshawar was lost to Pakistan after the Partition. The same fate is repeated with the grandson, though with a difference. He escapes out of Kenya, an act which is tantamount to betrayal, calling into question what home (land) is. African railroad dreams beckoned Indians to emigrate to Africa, but it was a one-way journey. History derailed the homebound train. For those in the diasporas, it is impossible to backtrack.

19In his ‘Memories Are as Long as Railroad Tracks’ Yu Kuang-chung recalls his train rides experience in various parts of China and throughout the world at different stages of his life, claiming that railroad tracks extend in two directions, whereas memory could only move in one. Yu Kuang-chung reminisces on his adolescent fervour for, and fascination with railways in railroad-less Sichuan, a province in southeastern China. Imagination, like railroad tracks, takes him elsewhere. Upon adulthood he travels by train throughout the world. Indian diasporas and their Chinese counterparts share something in common. Respectively in the nineteenth century, Indians built the East African Railway and the Chinese the American railroads. Like Yu Kuang-chung’s writing, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall places much emphasis on the duo of memory and tracks. Unlike Yu, Vassanji stresses the importance of the present moment, for a memoir is not merely for the sake of remembering. The paradox here is that the more distant the past into which the memoirist delves, the closer he is drawn to the present. Railroad tracks are supposed to carry Vikram away, but they catapult him back in time and place.

  • 4 Wu Chun-Hsien entitles her Thesis ‘A History Refusing to Be Enclosed’.

20Toward one end of the railway tracks goes the past, and toward the other the future. In-between the two is situated Vikram’s murky and troubled present, despite his claims that Canada is a ‘clement retreat’ (1). When his conscience pricks him and he grows impatient with his tainted name, Vikram abandons the present and throws himself into the arms of the past. On the one hand, Vikram sees how his corruption has tarnished the honors his grandfather and his fellow laborers left to the EAR, while on the other, he can have only a vague glimpse of whatever lies on the distant horizon. Backtracking seems easy. Though Vikram declares that ‘soon the untold stories […] would simply disappear into the winds’ (284), he is adamant in his attempt at returning to the past, no matter how quixotic an endeavor at fighting forgetfulness it might be. The past changes its face constantly and becomes untraceable and untrackable. Uncertain as the future, the past shows something new to Vikram each time he returns.4

21The etymology of memoir comes from memory and writing: memory is concerned with the past, the act of writing the present. Remembering his life in Kenya and relating it to Seema Chatterjee his sole audience, Vikram actually engages in a shuffling between two temporal ends and tries all he can to rectify his notoriety. In other words, the past wrong shall be righted here and now and the list is endless. Vikram blindly follows Mahesh Uncle without really knowing what he is up to. He regrets his tainted name which is a consequence of his previous money hoarding. He understands the taboo of exogamy, but still succumbs to it. For him, monogamy is a convention that asphyxiates true love between his sister Deepa and his African friend Njoroge, and between him and Yasmin, the Muslim girlfriend. After the death of Vikram’s mother, his father is taken care of by a Somali Muslim woman. Transgression of this kind matters very little as far as one’s wellbeing is concerned and as long as one remains true to oneself, but back then they lacked the courage to fight for their happiness.

22The in-between position makes Vikram more knowledgeable of the past and gives him the courage to further return to the past and at the same time face the present predicament. The lost gun episode as well as his return to Kenya to clear up his tainted name amply show how he engages in two temporal ends to his best advantage. His repeated backtracking to the past eventually makes possible his final understanding that what he is alleged to have done illegally is but determined by history.

23Vikram thinks that he is undeserving of that infamy and so he defends himself. Relegating his guilt to a history beyond his control, Vikram challenges the notion of good and evil. His in-between status and knowledge added to his ignorance of the past clear up his conscience. When he claims himself the most corrupt man in Africa, he is in fact asking where the line between good and evil should be drawn. He has been a person true to himself, loyal to the country, be it British or Kenyan. The blood oath taken with Njoroge—further cements his friendship with Njoroge and his idealized notion of Mahesh Uncle—is done when he is only eight, an age where he could barely tell right from wrong. Wu’s observation— ‘Vikram’s “innocent” childhood is completely consumed by the Mau Mau rebellion’ (64)—also confirms this self-defense. In other words, neither the blood oath is resulted from a willful exertion of a mature individual’s choice, nor is he free from a prick of conscience, albeit his alleged wrongdoing is a structure-induced one.

24The title of the novel best exemplifies Vikram’s predicament of being caught in-between a past he wants to forget and a present that keeps dragging him backwards. Toward the end of the narrative, Vikram intends to make peace with himself by reconciling with the government through the Anti-Corruption Commission. Fate, however, makes fun of him and deprives him of his good intentions: the department is declared illegal and accordingly, disbanded. Nurse interprets Vikram’s attempt at returning permanently as ‘giving up a security’ (82). In writing, however, the novelist grapples with the courage to confront the past that better anchors him in the present. From self-doubt, ‘a bad penny’ to being true to himself, Vikram realizes that there are things beyond one’s control, like Naipaul’s ‘the world is what it is’, but he also adamantly refuses religious and political extremes and chooses to snuggle himself somewhere in the middle between the two ends. To backtrack to the past, Vikram finds it has changed beyond his recognition, and despite the fact that his fight against oblivion is after all quixotic, he nevertheless has to continue his efforts.


Works Cited

Birns, Nicholas. ‘The In-between World of Vikram Lall’. Canadian Ethnic Studies 36.1 (2004): 144-46.

Cowley, Jason. ‘Half and Half’. Newstatesman (Dec 6, 2004): 55.

Engberg, Gillian. ‘The In-between World of Vikram Lall’. Booklist (September 1, 2004): 66.

Fisher, Susan. ‘History, Memory, Home: An Exchange with M. G. Vassanji’. Canadian Literature 190 (2006): 49-61.

Jacinco, Leela. ‘The Other Africans’. Nation (December 27, 2004): 31-4.

James, Jamie. ‘The Toronto Circle’. Atlantic Monthly 285.4 (April 2000): 126- 30. Accessed Oct. 10, 2008.

Malak, Amin. ‘Ambivalent Affiliations and the Postcolonial Condition: the Fiction of M. G. Vassanji’. World Literature Today 67.2 (Spring 1993): 277-83.

Mohapatra, Ashok K. ‘The Paradox of Return: Origins, Home and Identity in M. G. Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack’. Postcolonial Text 2.4 (2006): 1-21. Oct. 10, 2008.

Naipaul, V. S. A Bend in the River. New York: Vintage, 1989.

Nurse, Donna Bailey. ‘Digging Up a Hidden Past’. What’s a Black Critic to Do?: Interviews, Profiles and Reviews of Black Writers. Toronto: Insomniac P, 2003; 81-3.

O’Neill, Joseph. Netherland. New York: Pantheon Books, 2008.

Page, Benedicte. ‘An African Heart: An Interview’. Bookseller 5134 (June 25, 2004): 32.

Twaddle, Michael. ‘The Development of Communalism among East African Asians’, in Community, Empire and Migration: South Asians in Diaspora, Crispin Bates, ed. New York: Palgrave, 2001; 109-22.

Vassanji, M. G. ‘I Was a City Boy, a Soft Asian’. New Internationalist (December 2006): 8-11.

Vassanji, M. G. The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2003.

Wu, Chun-hsien. ‘A History Refusing to Be Enclosed: Mau Mau Historiography, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Sand, & M. G. Vassanji’s The In-Between World of Vikram Lall’. MA Thesis. National Central University, 2006.

York, Lorraine. ‘Fiction’. University of Toronto Quarterly 74.1 (2004/2005): 184-200. v074/74.1york.htmlAccessed Oct. 10, 2008.

Walcott, Derek. ‘The Spoiler’s Return’, in Collected Poems, 1948-1984. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986.


1 Image (My translation)

2 The gunny sack is also the title of Vassanji’s first novel published in 1989, which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and established Vassanji as an important voice in the emerging field of immigrant/minority writers.

3 A Bend in the River opens with ’The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it’ (3). Naipaul’s biography The World Is What It Is: the Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul is written by Patrick French (London: Picador, 2008).

4 Wu Chun-Hsien entitles her Thesis ‘A History Refusing to Be Enclosed’.


National I-lan University, Taiwan
Received his PhD degree from National Taiwan University in 2003. His Politics of Return: Stranger in the Wor (l) ds in the Works of V.S. Naipaul will be published by Edwin Mellen in 2010. His publications and research interests focus mainly on Indian diaspora writers in English, such as V. S. Naipaul, M. G. Vassanji, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri and Tahmima Anam. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages & Literature, National I-lan University, Taiwan.

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