In today’s New York Times there is a profile (registration required) by Clifford Krauss of a Canadian writer named Neil Bissoondath. (I apologize to him and to all of Canada for the fact that I had been unaware of his existence; like most Yanks, I am lamentably ignorant of our great neighbor to the north.) Mr. Bissoondath (to use Times style) came originally from Trinidad, like his uncle and mentor V.S. Naipaul, and he shares Naipaul’s disdain for the lesser breeds he has transcended by embracing the imperial culture. (I know, Canada was never an imperial power, but its culture came originally from Britain and France and has been heavily influenced by the U.S., and I trust no one will argue about the term “imperial” as applied to those heavyweights.) I was particularly struck by the psychological contradiction embodied in the following pair of quotes, a few paragraphs apart in the profile; I leave their exegesis as an exercise for the reader:
“Then there is ‘Selling Illusions,’ his collection of essays, in which he argued that Canada’s declaration that all cultures are equal and welcome is a curse in disguise. The financing of ethnic festivals and community centers, he wrote, amounts to the separation of minorities in Disneyland-like pockets of ethnicity frozen in time and out of context.
“He is married to a French Canadian, has an 11-year-old daughter and lives in a city where there are few other immigrants. Although he writes in English, he strongly defends local efforts to preserve French culture. His comfortable fieldstone house is decorated with accessories from many countries, but there is no sign of anything Trinidadian.”

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