From the archive
We lived, in Trinidad, among advertisements for things that were no longer made or, because of the war and the difficulties of transport, had ceased to be available. […] Many of the advertisements in Trinidad were for old-fashioned remedies and “tonics.” They were on tin, these advertisements, and enameled. They were used as decorations in shops and, having no relation to the goods offered for sale, they grew to be regarded as emblems of the shopkeeper’s trade. Later, during the war, when the shanty settlement began to grow in the swampland to the east of Port of Spain, these enameled tin advertisements were used sometimes as building material.
So I was used to living in a world where the signs were without meaning, or without the meaning intended by their makers. It was of a piece with the abstract, arbitrary nature of my education, like my ability to “study” French or Russian cinema without seeing a film, an ability which was, as I have said, like a man trying to get to know a city from its street map alone.
What was true of Trinidad seemed to be true of other places as well. In the book sections of some of the colonial emporia of Port of Spain there would be a shelf or two of the cheap wartime Penguin paperbacks […] It never struck me as odd that at the back of these wartime Penguins there should sometimes be advertisements for certain British things — chocolates, shoes, shaving cream — that had never been available in Trinidad and were now (because of the war, as the advertisements said) no longer being made; such advertisements were being put in by the former manufacturers only to keep their brand names alive during the war, and in the hope that the war would turn out well.