MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE — especially in great books.
V.S. Naipaul’s highly autobiographical novel The Enigma of Arrival, is a quietly dramatic and colorfully written book about a writer from Trinidad finding a second world, a second chance and a second life in rural England — a writer who had left his native Trinidad as a young man on a scholarship to Oxford, yearning and planning to be a writer.
“After five days on the liner, I wanted to go out. I wanted especially to go to a cinema. I had heard that in London the cinemas ran continuously; at home I was used to shows at fixed times. The idea of the continuous show — as the metropolitan way of doing things, with all that it implied of a great busy populace, was very attractive.”
“…for at home [in Trinidad] that was where, imaginatively, I lived most profoundly: in the cinema…I lived imaginatively in the cinema, a foretaste of that life abroad. On Saturday afternoons, after the special holiday shows which began at one-thirty (and which we simply called ‘one-thirty’ rather in the way other people might speak of matinées), it was painful, after the dark cinema and the remote realms where one had been living for three hours or so, to come out into the very bright colors of one’s own world.”
In England he sees a theater marquee advertising Marius with Raimu. “I had never seen a French film in my life.” “They had never been shown in Trinidad. And perhaps, like British films, if they had been shown they would have found no audience, being of a particular country, local, not universal like the Hollywood pictures, which could quicken the imaginations of remote people. I knew French films from books, especially Manvell’s Film. I knew all the still photographs in that book.” (If you are not familiar with Manvell’s Film, get acquainted.) “His reverential text, and the enthusiasm that had been given me at school for France as the country of civilization, made me see an extraordinary virtue in those strongly lighted, poorly reproduced small photographs.”
(The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul. Penguin Books, 1987; Picador, 2002.)
The photograph above of V.S. Naipaul is from the cover of Patrick French’s authorized biography THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS. The picture appears among public domain internet images.
NEXT FRIDAY POST July 29
See you at the movies,