Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

V.S. Naipaul : Half a Life

Alas, poor Willie.

His father a Brahmin - his mother a Dalit - and he's a talented writer with opportunities but no idea of what to do with life except fuck.

Compassionate - sharply observant - but ultimately self centered - just as the  book is Willie centered -  with secondary characters that are fascinating but sketchy.  How does his wife spend her time? How did Willie himself spend his time before he became more curious about his sexuality? We are told  nothing about whatever challenges he faced in agribusiness or as a husband. Would he have lived in Africa his entire life if the insurrection had never happened?

Presumably this novel  targets readers with a taste for colonial guilt and sexual perversity.

Yet the story breathes with life -- the narrative is unpredictable and exciting. It seems to diverge - instead of converge - as the story progresses.  When we're told that Willie has left London for Mozambique and will stay there for 18 years -- it's like jumping off the high board at a swimming pool. 

The story ends abruptly as Willie leaves Mozambique without career, family, or cash.  There is a sequel that begins in Berlin - so I suppose I'll next be reading about his German girlfriends.



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