The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief

      V. S. Naipaul
The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief

Like all of V. S. Naipaul’s “travel” books, The Masque of Africa encompasses a much larger narrative and purpose: to judge the effects of belief (in indigenous animisms, the foreign religions of Christianity and Islam, the cults of leaders and mythical history) upon the progress of civilization.

From V. S. Naipaul: “For my travel books I travel on a theme. And the theme of The Masque of Africa is African belief. I begin in Uganda, at the center of the continent, do Ghana and Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Gabon, and end at the bottom of the continent, in South Africa. My theme is belief, not political or economical life; and yet at the bottom of the continent the political realities are so overwhelming that they have to be taken into account.
“Perhaps an unspoken aspect of my inquiry was the possibility of the subversion of old Africa by the ways of the outside world. The theme held until I got to the South, when the clash of the two ways of thinking and believing became far too one-sided. The skyscrapers of Johannesburg didn’t rest on sand. The older world of magic felt fragile, but at the same time had an enduring quality. You felt that it would survive any calamity.
“I had expected that over the great size of Africa the practices of magic would significantly vary. But they didn’t. The diviners everywhere wanted to ‘throw the bones’ to read the future, and the idea of ‘energy’ remained a constant, to be tapped into by the ritual sacrifice of body parts. In South Africa body parts, mainly of animals, but also of men and women, made a mixture of ‘battle medicine.’ To witness this, to be given some idea of its power, was to be taken far back to the beginning of things.

“To reach that beginning was the purpose of my book.”

The Masque of Africa
is a masterly achievement by one of the world’s keenest observers and one of its greatest writers.

From the Hardcover edition.


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    A Way in the World

      V. S. Naipaul
A Way in the World

Nobel Prize winner V. S. Naipaul intertwines memory and history to create an ambitious fictional archaeology of colonialism.

Spanning continents and centuries and defying literary categories, A Way in the World tells intersecting stories whose protagonists include the disgraced and half-demented Sir Walter Raleigh who seeks El Dorado in the New World; the 19th century insurgent Francisco Miranda who becomes entangled in his own fantasies and borrowed ideas; and the doomed Blair, a present-day Caribbean revolutionary stranded in East Africa. Among these presences is a narrator who bears a telling resemblance to Naipaul himself: a Trinidadian writer of Indian ancestry and English residence boldly trying to come to terms with the mystery and transience that is his inheritance.


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    An Area of Darkness

      V. S. Naipaul
An Area of Darkness

A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness is Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India.
Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras, Naipaul encounters a dizzying cross-section of humanity: browbeaten government workers and imperious servants, a suavely self-serving holy man and a deluded American religious seeker.
An Area of Darkness
also abounds with Naipaul’s strikingly original responses to India’s paralyzing caste system, its apparently serene acceptance of poverty and squalor, and the conflict between its desire for self-determination and its nostalgia for the British raj. The result may be the most elegant and passionate book ever written about the subcontinent.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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    Literary Occasions: Essays

      V. S. Naipaul
Literary Occasions: Essays

Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul brings his signature gifts of observation, his ferocious impatience with received truths, and his masterfully condensed prose to these eleven essays on reading, writing, and identity—which have been brought together for the first time.
Here the subject is Naipaul’s literary evolution: the books that delighted him as a child; the books he wrote as a young man; the omnipresent predicament of trying to master an essentially metropolitan, imperial art form as an Asian colonial from a New World plantation island. He assesses Joseph Conrad, the writer most frequently cited as his forebear, and, in his celebrated Nobel Lecture, “Two Worlds,” traces the full arc of his own career. Literary Occasions is an indispensable addition to the Naipaul oeuvre, penetrating, elegant, and affecting.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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    A Turn in the South

      V. S. Naipaul
A Turn in the South

In the tradition of political and cultural revelation V.S. Naipaul so brilliantly made his own in Among The Believers, A Turn In The South, his first book about the United States, is a revealing, disturbing, elegiac book about the American South -- from Atlanta to Charleston, Tallahassee to Tuskegee, Nashville to Chapel Hill.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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    Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples

      V. S. Naipaul
Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples

"Brilliant. . . . A powerfully observed, stylistically elegant exploration." --The New York Times

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"The book's strength lies in Naipaul's extraordinary ability as a storyteller to draw striking portraits of a cross section of individuals."--The Boston Globe

Fourteen years after the publication of his landmark travel narrative Among the Believers, V. S. Naipaul returned to the four non-Arab Islamic countries he reported on so vividly at the time of Ayatollah Khomeini's triumph in Iran. Beyond Belief is the result of his five-month journey in 1995 through Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia--lands where descendants of Muslim converts live at odds with indigenous traditions, and where dreams of Islamic purity clash with economic and political realities.

In extended conversations with a vast number of people--a rare survivor of the martyr brigades of the Iran-Iraq war, a young intellectual training as a Marxist guerilla in Baluchistan, an impoverished elderly couple in Teheran whose dusty Baccarat chandeliers preserve the memory of vanished wealth, and countless others--V. S. Naipaul deliberately effaces himself to let the voices of his subjects come through. Yet the result is a collection of stories that has the author's unmistakable stamp. With its incisive observation and brilliant cultural analysis, Beyond Belief is a startling and revelatory addition to the Naipaul canon.

"Highly accomplished. . . . Another display of Naipaul's remarkable talent." --The Independent (London)


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    The Mimic Men: A Novel

      V. S. Naipaul
The Mimic Men: A Novel

A profound novel of cultural displacement, The Mimic Men masterfully evokes a colonial man’s experience in a postcolonial world.

Born of Indian heritage and raised on a British-dependent Caribbean island, Ralph Singh has retired to suburban London, writing his memoirs as a means to impose order on a chaotic existence. His memories lead him to recognize the paradox of his childhood during which he secretly fantasized about a heroic India, yet changed his name from Ranjit Kripalsingh. As he assesses his short-lived marriage to an ostentatious white woman, Singh realizes what has kept him from becoming a proper Englishman. But it is the return home and his subsequent immersion in the roiling political atmosphere of a newly self-governed nation that ultimately provide Singh with the necessary insight to discover the crux of his disillusionment.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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    In a Free State

      V. S. Naipaul
In a Free State

No writer has rendered our boundariless, post-colonial world more acutely or prophetically than V. S. Naipaul, or given its upheavals such a hauntingly human face. A perfect case in point is this riveting novel, a masterful and stylishly rendered narrative of emigration, dislocation, and dread, accompanied by four supporting narratives.

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. By turns funny and terrifying, sorrowful and unsparing, In A Free State is Naipaul at his best.


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    Collected Short Fiction

      V. S. Naipaul
Collected Short Fiction

For the first time: the Nobel Prize winner’s stunning short fiction collected in one volume, with an introduction by the author.

Over the course of his distinguished career, V. S. Naipaul has written a remarkable array of short fiction that moves from Trinidad to London to Africa. Here are the stories from his Somerset Maugham Award–winning Miguel Street (1959), in which he takes us into a derelict corner of Trinidad’s capital to meet, among others, Man-Man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion. The tales in A Flag on the Island (1967), meanwhile, roam from a Chinese bakery in Trinidad to a rooming house in London. And in the celebrated title story from the Booker Prize– winning In a Free State (1971), an English couple traveling in an unnamed African country discover, under a veneer of civilization, a landscape of squalor and ethnic bloodletting.

No writer has rendered our postcolonial world more acutely or prophetically than V. S. Naipaul, or given its upheavals such a hauntingly human face.


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    India: A Million Mutinies Now

      V. S. Naipaul
India: A Million Mutinies Now

New York Times Notable Book

Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s impassioned and prescient travelogue of his journeys through his ancestral homeland, with a new preface by the author.

Arising out of Naipaul’s lifelong obsession and passion for a country that is at once his and totally alien, India: A Million Mutinies Now relates the stories of many of the people he met traveling there more than fifty years ago. He explores how they have been steered by the innumerable frictions present in Indian society—the contradictions and compromises of religious faith, the whim and chaos of random political forces. This book represents Naipaul’s last word on his homeland, complementing his two other India travelogues, An Area of Darkness and India: A Wounded Civilization.


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    A House for Mr. Biswas

      V. S. Naipaul
A House for Mr. Biswas

The early masterpiece of V. S. Naipaul’s brilliant career, A House for Mr. Biswas is an unforgettable story inspired by Naipaul's father that has been hailed as one of the twentieth century's finest novels.

In his forty-six short years, Mr. Mohun Biswas has been fighting against destiny to achieve some semblance of independence, only to face a lifetime of calamity. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning death of his father, for which he is inadvertently responsible, Mr. Biswas yearns for a place he can call home. But when he marries into the domineering Tulsi family on whom he indignantly becomes dependent, Mr. Biswas embarks on an arduous–and endless–struggle to weaken their hold over him and purchase a house of his own. A heartrending, dark comedy of manners, A House for Mr. Biswas masterfully evokes a man’s quest for autonomy against an emblematic post-colonial canvas.


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    Half a Life

      V. S. Naipaul
Half a Life

One of the finest living writers in the English language, V. S. Naipaul gives us a tale as wholly un-
expected as it is affecting, his first novel since the exultantly acclaimed A Way in the World, published seven years ago.
Half a Life is the story of Willie Chandran, whose father, heeding the call of Mahatma Gandhi, turned
his back on his brahmin heritage and married a woman of low caste--a disastrous union he would live to regret, as he would the children that issued from it. When Willie reaches manhood, his flight from the travails of his mixed birth takes him from India to London, where, in the shabby haunts of immigrants and literary bohemians of the 1950s, he contrives a new identity. This is what happens as he tries to defeat self-doubt in sexual adventures and in the struggle to become a writer--strivings that bring him to the brink of exhaustion, from which he is rescued, to his amazement, only by the love of a good woman. And this is what happens when he returns with her--carried along, really--to her home in Africa, to live, until the last doomed days of colonialism, yet another life not his own.
In a luminous narrative that takes us across three continents, Naipaul explores his great theme of inheritance with an intimacy and directness unsurpassed in his extraordinary body of work. And even as he lays bare the bitter comical ironies of assumed identities, he gives us a poignant spectacle of the enervation peculiar to a borrowed life. In one man's determined refusal of what he has been given to be, Naipaul reveals the way of all our experience. As Willie comes to see, Everything goes on a bias. The world should stop, but it goes on. A masterpiece of economy and emotional nuance, Half a Life is an indelible feat of the imagination. From the Hardcover edition.


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    Guerrillas

      V. S. Naipaul
Guerrillas

An expatriate English couple and a West Indian would-be revolutionary yield to infidelity, sexual abuse, murder, and irrevocable mental and moral decay on a socially fragile, post-colonial Caribbean island.

A novel of colonialism and revolution, death, sexual violence and political and spiritual impotence.


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    The Writer and the World: Essays

      V. S. Naipaul
The Writer and the World: Essays

Spanning four decades and four continents, this magisterial volume brings together the essential shorter works of reflection and reportage by our most sensitive, literate, and undeceivable observer of the post-colonial world. In its pages V. S. Naipaul trains his relentless moral intelligence on societies from India to the United States and sees how each deals with the challenges of modernity and the seductions of both the real and mythical past.

Whether he is writing about a string of racial murders in Trinidad; the mad, corrupt reign of Mobutu in Zaire; Argentina under the generals; or Dallas during the 1984 Republican Convention, Naipaul combines intellectual playfulness with sorrow, indignation, and analysis so far-reaching that it approaches prophecy. The Writer and the World reminds us that he is in a class by himself.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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    Miguel Street

      V. S. Naipaul
Miguel Street

“A stranger could drive through Miguel Street and just say ‘Slum!’ because he could see no more.” But to its residents this derelict corner of Trinidad’s capital is a complete world, where everybody is quite different from everybody else. There’s Popo the carpenter, who neglects his livelihood to build “the thing without a name.” There’s Man-man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion, and the dreaded Big Foot, the bully with glass tear ducts. There’s the lovely Mrs. Hereira, in thrall to her monstrous husband. In this tender, funny early novel, V. S. Naipaul renders their lives (and the legends their neighbors construct around them) with Dickensian verve and Chekhovian compassion.
Set during World War II and narrated by an unnamed–but precociously observant–neighborhood boy, Miguel Street is a work of mercurial mood shifts, by turns sweetly melancholy and anarchically funny. It overflows with life on every page.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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    The Middle Passage

      V. S. Naipaul
The Middle Passage

In 1960 the government of Trinidad invited V. S. Naipaul to revisit his native country and record his impressions. In this classic of modern travel writing he has created a deft and remarkably prescient portrait of Trinidad and four adjacent Caribbean societies–countries haunted by the legacies of slavery and colonialism and so thoroughly defined by the norms of Empire that they can scarcely believe that the Empire is ending.
In The Middle Passage, Naipaul watches a Trinidadian movie audience greeting Humphrey Bogart’s appearance with cries of “That is man!” He ventures into a Trinidad slum so insalubrious that the locals call it the Gaza Strip. He follows a racially charged election campaign in British Guiana (now Guyana) and marvels at the Gallic pretension of Martinique society, which maintains the fiction that its roads are extensions of France’s routes nationales. And throughout he relates the ghastly episodes of the region’s colonial past and shows how they continue to inform its language, politics, and values. The result is a work of novelistic vividness and dazzling perspicacity that displays Naipaul at the peak of his powers.


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    Magic Seeds

      V. S. Naipaul
Magic Seeds

Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s magnificent Magic Seeds continues the story of Willie Chandran, the perennially dissatisfied and self-destructively naive protagonist of his bestselling Half a Life.
Having left a wife and a livelihood in Africa, Willie is persuaded to return to his native India to join an underground movement on behalf of its oppressed lower castes. Instead he finds himself in the company of dilettantes and psychopaths, relentlessly hunted by police and spurned by the people he means to liberate. But this is only one stop in a quest for authenticity that takes in all the fanaticism and folly of the postmodern era. Moving with dreamlike swiftness from guerrilla encampment to prison cell, from the squalor of rural India to the glut and moral desolation of 1980s London,
Magic Seeds
is a novel of oracular power, dazzling in its economy and unblinking in its observations.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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    A Bend in the River

      V. S. Naipaul
A Bend in the River

Set in an unnamed African country, the book is narrated by Salim, a young man from an Indian family of traders long resident on the coast. He believes The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it. So he has taken the initiative; left the coast; acquired his own shop in a small, growing city in the continents’s remote interior and is selling sundries - little more than this and that really - to the natives. This spot, this ‘bend in the river’, is a microcosm of post-colonial Africa at the time of Independence: a scene of chaos, violent change, warring tribes, ignorance, isolation and poverty. And from this rich landscape emerges one of the author’s most potent works - a truly moving story of historical upheaval and social breakdown.


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    The Mystic Masseur

      V. S. Naipaul
The Mystic Masseur

In this slyly funny and lavishly inventive novel–his first–V. S. Naipaul traces the unlikely career of Ganesh Ramsumair, a failed schoolteacher and impecunious village masseur who in time becomes a revered mystic, a thriving entrepreneur, and the most beloved politician in Trinidad. To understand a little better, one has to realize that in the 1940s masseurs were the island’s medical practitioners of choice. As one character observes, “I know the sort of doctors they have in Trinidad. They think nothing of killing two, three people before breakfast.”

Ganesh’s ascent is variously aided and impeded by a Dickensian cast of rogues and eccentrics. There’s his skeptical wife, Leela, whose schooling has made her excessively, fond. of; punctuation: marks!; and Leela’s father, Ramlogan, a man of startling mood changes and an ever-ready cutlass. There’s the aunt known as The Great Belcher. There are patients pursued by malign clouds or afflicted with an amorous fascination with bicycles. Witty, tender, filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of Trinidad’s dusty Indian villages, The Mystic Masseur is Naipaul at his most expansive and evocative.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


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