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In The Middle Passage, Naipaul watches a Trinidadian movie audience greeting Humphrey Bogart’s appearance with cries of “That is man!” He ventures into a Trinidad slum so insalubrious that the locals call it the Gaza Strip. He follows a racially charged election campaign in British Guiana (now Guyana) and marvels at the Gallic pretension of Martinique society, which maintains the fiction that its roads are extensions of France’s routes nationales. And throughout he relates the ghastly episodes of the region’s colonial past and shows how they continue to inform its language, politics, and values. The result is a work of novelistic vividness and dazzling perspicacity that displays Naipaul at the peak of his powers.
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