WHEN DID YOU LAST THINK OF HANGOVER SQUARE? WHEN LAST DID YOU VIEW THE LODGER?

MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE  –  More Movies in Naipaul

In V.S. Naipaul‘s splendid novel The Enigma of Arrival, he writes about  the narrator’s  first days in London compared with his fantasies and dreams about it back in his native Trinidad  —  fantasies and dreams coming out of books and films:  “And something else occurred in those very early days, the first days of arrival.  I lost a faculty that had been part of me and precious to me for years.  I lost the gift of fantasy, the dream of the future, the far-off place where I was going.”

V.S. Naipaul

V.S. Naipaul

Naipaul continues, in what feels like an autobiographical passage:  “At home I had lived most intensely in the cinema, where, before the fixed-hour shows, the cinema boys, to shut out daylight or electric street light, closed the double doors all around and untied the long chords that kept the high wooden windows open.  In those dark halls I had dreamt of a life elsewhere.  Now, in the place that for all those years had been the ‘elsewhere’, no further dream was possible.  And while on my very first night in London I had wanted to go to the cinema for the sake of those continuous shows I had heard about, to me the very essence of metropolitan busyness, very soon now the idea of the cinema, the idea of entering a dark hall to watch a moving film became oppressive to me.”

Our narrator goes on:  “I had thought of the cinema pleasure as a foretaste of my adult life.  Now…I felt it to be fantasy.  I hadn’t read Hangover Square, didn’t even know of it as a book; but I had seen the film.  Its Hollywood London had merged in my mind…into the London of The Lodger.  Now I knew that London to be fantasy, worthless to me.  And the cinema pleasure, that had gone so deep into me and had in the barren years of abstract study given me such support, that cinema pleasure was now cut away as with a knife.  And when, ten or twelve years later, I did return to the cinema, the Hollywood I had known was dead, the extraordinary circumstances in which it had flourished no longer existing; American films had become as self-regardingly local as the French or English; and there was as much distance between a film and me as between a book or a painting and me.  Fantasy was no longer possible.  I went to the cinema not as a dreamer or a fantast but as a critic.”

(The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul.  Penguin, 1987; Picador, 2002.)
NEXT FRIDAY POST August 12

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

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