Original Research

V.S. Naipaul’s A way in the world: contesting liminality by translating the historical past

ZHU Ying
Literator | Vol 27, No 1 | a181 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v27i1.181 | © 2006 ZHU Ying | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2006 | Published: 30 July 2006

About the author(s)

ZHU Ying, Department of English, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China

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In this article the concept of liminality is understood in a broad sense to mean the incompleteness of historical representation and the restrained view of reality. The ensuing discussion of the theme will be divided into three parts; each incorporating parts of Paul Ricoeur’s analyses in “The reality of the historical past” (1984). Ricoeur investigates the reality of the historical past under three categories – the Same, the Other, and the Analogue. Under the sign of “the Same”, contesting liminality is first discussed as the re-enactment of the historical past. This re-enactment of the past, however, has differences in the present on account of imaginative reinterpretations and repatternings of documentary evidence. Under the sign of ”the Other”, the second part or the article discusses Naipaul’s strategy of taking distance to counteract liminality in rewriting the historical past from the vantage point of a writer-traveller. Finally, the analysis under the sign of “the Analogue” points out that the commitment to combat liminality implies an unending attempt at rectifying and reconfiguring the historical past in order to accomplish continuity and renewal.


Generic Hybridity; Historical Representation; Incompleteness; Liminality


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