The Loss Of El Dorado by V. S. Naipaul


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Readers Union, 1969.

'The Loss of El Dorado, by the Nobel Prize winner V. S. Naipaul, is a history book about Venezuela and Trinidad. It was published in 1969. The title refers to the El Dorado legend.

Back in London in October 1966, Naipaul received an invitation from the American publisher Little, Brown and Company to write a book on Port-of-Spain.The book took two years to write, its scope widening with time. The Loss of El Dorado eventually became a narrative history of Trinidad based on primary sources. Naipaul and his first wife, Patricia Hale, spent many months in the archives of the British Library reading those sources. In the end, the finished product was not to the liking of Little, Brown, who were expecting a guidebook. Alfred A. Knopf agreed to publish it instead in the United States, as did André Deutsch Britain.

The Loss of El Dorado is an attempt to ferret out an older, deeper history of Trinidad, one preceding its commonly taught history as a British-run plantation colony with an economy resting on the labour of slaves and of indentured workers. Naipaul looked at the Spanish/British colonial rivalry in the Orinoco basin, drawing on contemporary sources written in Spanish and English. The book examines the obsessive search for El Dorado, a Spanish obsession, in turn pursued by the British, to explore the region. In particular, the book examines Sir Walter Raleigh's voyages with a psychological depth more typical of novels than of historical works.'