Author: V S Naipaul
Publisher: Picador India
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0330487051
This is one of V S Naipaul's greatest novels, hard but full of pity. It won the Booker Prize in 1971.
In Egypt, in the Valley of the Kings, the writer sees the tomb paintings,. 'Perhaps that had been the only pure time, at the beginning, when the ancient artist, knowing no other land, had learned to look at his own and seen it as complete. . .'
The theme is displacement, the yearning for the good place in someone else’s land, the attendant heartache.
The Indian servant in Washington becomes an American citizen but feels he has ceased to be a part of the flow. The disturbed Asian West Indian in London, in Jail for murder, has never really known where he is.
The central novel changes gear. It is set in Africa, in a place like Uganda or Rwanda, and its two main characters are English. They had once found liberation in Africa. But now Africa is going sour on them. The land is no longer safe, and at a time of tribal conflict they have to make a long drive to the safety of their compound. At the end of this drive the narrative tight, wonderfully constructed, the formal and precise language always instinct with violence and range – we know everything about the English characters, the African country, and the Idi Amin-like future awaiting it.
Prologue, from a Journal: The Tramp at Piraeus
One Out of many
Tell me who to Kill
In a free State
Epilogue, from a journal: The circus at Luxor