Thursday, July 30, 2015


And here’s another thing about London, literature, eating and walking.  It comes from V.S. Naipaul’s novel Half A Life, published in 2001, but set in London in the 1950s: 
      "(Willie Somerset Chandran) went very late that evening to Piccadilly Circus.  He walked around the streets, hardly daring to look at the aggressive, dangerous-looking streetwalkers.  He walked until he was tired.  At about midnight he went into a bright café.  It was full of prostitutes, hard, foolish-looking, not attractive, most of them drinking tea and smoking, some of them eating soft white cheese rolls.”

I’m not sure what Naipaul is objecting to most here.  Is it the mere presence of prostitutes? Or is it the fact that the prostitutes were aggressive, dangerous-looking, hard, foolish-looking, and not attractive?  If they were benign, safe-looking, soft, wise and attractive would that be OK then?  Or is it – and I expect it actually is – the fact that they’re eating soft white cheese rolls? 
         And if we’re really going to get pedantic about it – and obviously I am – was it the roll that was soft and white, or the cheese that was soft and white?  Or both?

  Anyway, above is a picture of Naipaul and his wife Pat having a picnic by the pool at the Ashoka hotel, New Delhi, in 1962.  Not a soft white cheese roll in sight.

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