Plunder & Dereliction

In the chapter entitled “The Shorthills adventure,” which is too long to quote in full although I would dearly wish to do so, Naipaul traces in breathtaking and chilling detail the destruction of a large and generous house, by plunderous dwelling. What is most penetrating of the account is not just the happy lack of concern, the tolerance with which it happens, but the description of the sequence of events. The description of the process of dereliction as a series of small events, whose only connection is their possibility, their tolerance, so that the cumulative index is the only narrative. It is a harrowing story, which prevented me from finishing the book when I first read it, I became too depressed. Nevertheless it is the universal story of dereliction, of decay which is allowed to happen because of a lack of connection by ownership. The house is no longer the substance of the owner.