Sir Vidia on El Dorado

V.S. Naipaul (17 August 1932 – 11 August 2018) was fairly down on colonialisation, perhaps because he correctly divined its attendant psychology.  Here he is on Columbus, Robinson Crusoe and the quest for El Dorado:

The facts about Columbus have always been known. In his own writings and in all his actions his egoism is like an exposed deformity; he condemns himself. But the heroic gloss, which is not even his own, has come down through the centuries…In this adventure, as in today’s adventures in space, the romance is something we ourselves have to apply…But the black legend of Spain will persist, as will the heroic legend of Columbus. The dream of the untouched, complete world, the thing for ourselves alone, the dream of Shangri-la, is an enduring human fantasy. It fell to the Spaniards to have the unique experience. Generosity and romance, then, to the discoverer; but the Spaniards will never be forgiven. And even in the violated New World the Spaniards themselves remained subject to the fantasy. The quest for El Dorado became like a recapitulation of the whole New World adventure, a wish to have it all over again; more men and money were expended on this in twenty expeditions than on the conquest of Mexico, Peru and New Granada.

Robinson Crusoe, in its essential myth-making middle part, is an aspect of the same fantasy…It is the dream of being the first man in the world, of watching the first crop grow…The horror of the discovery, of being the first totally powerful man in the world: that happened a long time before.”


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