The Naipaul that never was

Just finished No Pain Like This Body by Trinidadian author Harold Sonny Ladoo.

Gosh, what a find. Of East Indian descent, he was born into a poor rice growing family in Central Trinidad, also, we must wonder, from a family in which there was more than a hint of brutality and physical abuse meted out by the family patriarch. If most or many first novels stem from autobiography, then Ladoo’s intimate portrayal of this family’s desperate life at the turn of the 20th Century, makes this book both grim reading and yet admirable for its lack of sentimentality and its poetic beauty. A forerunner of the modern day lit-memoir-mix, books like Once Upon a House on Fire and Running With Scissors, have evolved from books like Ladoo’s. The book is certainly a work of art. Ladoo’s prose is lean and stripped down. He uses visuals, but also, and this is quite rare – aurals. Alliteration, run together words, canny and exacting dialogue. A spinkling of creole vocab. Words like crappo and mamzelle spelled pheonetically. Laddo has a fine ear for sound and knows how to make words not just look good but sound good on the page.

Sadly, Ladoo was murdered at the age of 28, not long after his debut novel was published. He once told his childhood friends that he could write better than Naipaul. Hmmmm. If only he had lived into his writing pime. I, for one, would have loved to see Naipaul challenged from his own back yard. Ladoo’s book is greatly admired in the Caribbean by its authors and readers – and with good reason.

Go buy!


~ by moniqueroffey on January 17, 2009.

One Response to “The Naipaul that never was”

  1. Hi Monique
    So relieved you enjoyed ‘No Pain like this Body’. I’m always a little hesitant to recommend writers/books to established writers whose reading taste I’m not familiar with.
    I found his prose lean, spare but evocative. My mother would say ‘If wishes were horses beggars would ride, with lords and ladies at their side’, but how I wish Sonny had left us more.
    Good luck with your ‘… kisses…’

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