In the weekend we have contact studies. I know there’s pair and group-work coming up in grammar and academic communication and the second versions of our academic essay’s were due this week too, as we had them peer-reviewed. Peer review – that’s an excellent practice and you learn a lot both by reviewing and being reviewed. (It works well with tasks in working life too.)
Nobel prize winning literature
The fun part during this study period was reading Naipaul’s short story The thing without a name. Reading papers on linguistics was a more laborious task, I didn’t quite manage to go through all of the required papers yet, so I’ll have a few to go before summer vacation. The short story we were assigned to read took me on a trip to Trinidad. The trip wasn’t merely a pleasurable one, but a realistic dive into the, sometimes, difficult circumstances of characters living in the slums in the 1950’s.
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001 “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories.” (Goodreads). Apparently “V.S.” studied English at the university, in the 1950’s in Oxford, England before he became successful in writing prose.
The short story
In The thing without a name Naipaul portrays the world through the eyes of a young boy (?) living on Miguel street.
“The sawdust no longer sounded with hammering and sawing. The sawdust no longer smelled fresh, and became black, almost like dirt. Popo began drinking a lot, and I didn’t like him when he was drunk. He smelled of rum, and he used to cry and then grow angry and want to beat up everybody. That made him an accepted member of the gang. Hat said, “We was wrong about Popo. He is a man, like any of we”.
I felt a certain pity for some characters in the story, but in a strange way, I could also relate to them. The vernacular language the characters “spoke” brought them closer, made them feel more real. There is drinking, domestic abuse, criminality, marital problems and life struggle in general. The story also seems also to capture a Trinidadian masculinity model. A model, where displaying dominance through violence is required to be seen as a real man.
Finding the passion for reading… again
Literature is one way of learning about the life and struggles of other people, learning empathy. I generally think people should read more; myself included. I used to be passionate about reading when I was younger, but nowadays there’s just too much digital noise around… Or maybe I’m just busy or lazy, I don’t know. Maybe it was the passion that lead me back to philology studies to make more time for reading? Anyhow, I think the right kind of literature helps us understand other people, but it can also help us understand ourselves better. I want to inspire my own kids and others to read more, even if it’s hard sometimes.
Reading this particular story left me wondering if there was any hope for the characters. Maybe I shall read the piece again to see how it makes me feel, reading it for the second time?