Naipaul published a selection of his essays and journalism as The Overcrowded Barracoon (1972) which includes, along with some autobiography and comments on India, studies of small, economically unviable, islands caught up in the drama, rhetoric and delusions of independence. Anguilla, a Caribbean island with a population of six thousand, wants to go it alone, but has not the economic means, is unable to defend itself and is vulnerable to every sweet-talking hustler or crook. If only for its own protection it needs to belong to a larger economic and political body. Mauritius, the Indian Ocean island where ‘the dodo forgot how to fly, because it had no enemies’ (p. 277), was once uninhabited. Since the seventeenth century there have been various attempts to settle the land, grow sugar cane, import slaves and use indentured Indian immigrants for labour. After malaria was eradicated in the late 1940s the population increased rapidly and keeps growing. Sugar remains the sole export, there is massive unemployment, society is racially divided (‘rural labour is Indian; mulattos are civil servants; Blacks are artisans, dockworkers and fishermen; Chinese are in trade’), the country is independent, a ‘paradise’ to tourists, and ‘part of the great human engineering of recent empires, the shifting about of leaderless groups of conquered peoples’.
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