Length: 192 pages
About: Five stories of alienating cultures
Style: 1st & 3rd person
Where: America, India, Britain, Africa, West Indies
In the beginning it is just a car trip through Africa. Two English people – Bobby, a civil servant with a guilty appetite for African boys, and Linda, a supercilious “compound wife” – are driving
back to their enclave after a stay in the capital. But in between lies the landscape of an unnamed country whose squalor and ethnic bloodletting suggest Idi Amin’s Uganda. And the farther Naipaul’s
protagonists travel into it, the more they find themselves crossing the line that separates privileged outsiders from horrified victims. Alongside this Conradian tour de force are four incisive
portraits of men seeking liberation far from home.
The tramp when he appeared on the quay looked very English but that might only have been we had no English people on board. From a distance he didnt look like a tramp. the hat and the
rucksack, the lovat tweed jacket, the grey flannels and the boots might have belonged to a romantic wanderer of an earlier generation; in that rucksack there might have been a book of verse, a
journal, the beginnings of a novel.
Mr. Naipaul's style in these stories seems leaner than in the past and much more somber. There is virtually none of the earlier playfulness. He appears to have settled for precision over
abundance. Each detail and each incident is made to carry its weight in the narrative. The effect is not small-scaled, for in the title story he has created an entire country. He has not tidied up
every loose strand. There is, for example, a Chinese circus that travels through these pages, whose meaning is more intriguing than clear. But there is nothing unfinished in these polished novellas.
For full review click here
The New York Times , Thomas Lask, December 25th 1971
Not so good:
It seems churlish then to complain about such a fine piece of writing. But I did have some grumbles. In contrast to his ability to lay bare the psychology of
racism, Naipaul's depiction of a homosexual is clumsy. Bobby, the male half of the dysfunctional lead duo, is something of a gay caricature. He's arrogant, highly-strung, masochistic, full of "cunt"
hatred and pathetically weak and needy when it comes to his "adventures" with local men. The portrayals of these "natives" meanwhile, may well be deliberately wafer-thin, presumably in order to
reflect the way the Europeans view them, but they remain correspondingly unsatisfying. Finally, there's an intangible quality missing that makes it hard to warm to this book, in spite of its dazzling
prose. For full review click here.
The Guardian Blog Books, Sam Jordison, 21st December, 2007
About the author
V S Naipaul was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad, on 17 August 1932. His novels include The Mimic Men (1967), winner of the 1968 WH Smith Literary Award, In a Free State (1971), which won the Booker
Prize for Fiction. V. S. Naipaul was knighted in 1989. He was awarded the David Cohen British Literature Prize by the Arts Council of England in 1993 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. He
holds honorary doctorates from Cambridge University and Columbia University in New York, and honorary degrees from the universities of Cambridge, London and Oxford. He lives in Wiltshire,