The noisiest city in the world

By

V. S. Naipaul -- a Trinidadian novelist and essayist of Indian parentage -- has traveled widely in the West Indies, North and South America, India, and Africa. In 1960 he returned to Port of Spain, Trinidad, and recorded his observations in ``The Middle Passage'' (1962): You drive up to the new Lady Young Road, and the diminishing noise makes it seem cooler. You get to the top and look out at the city glittering below you, amber and exploding blue on black, the ships in the harbour in the background, the orange flames issuing from the oil derricks far out in the Gulf of Paria. For a moment it is silent. Then above the crickets, whose stridulation you hadn't noticed, you begin to hear the city: the dogs, the steel bands. You wait until the radio stations have closed down for the night -- but rediffusion sets, for which there is a flat rental, are never turned off: they remain open, to await the funnelling of the morning noise -- and then you wind down into the city again, drowning in the din. All through the night the dogs will go on, in a thousand inextricably snarled barking relays, rising and falling, from street to street and back again, from one end of the city to another. And you will wonder how you stood it for eighteen years, and whether it was always like this.

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