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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

V. S. Naipaul : Magic Seeds

"It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world.  That's where the mischief starts. That's where everything starts unravelling.  But I can't write to Sarojini about that"

With this sad-but-wise conclusion, Willie brings an end to "Magic Seeds", the sequel to "Half a Life".

And I disagree -  at least with regards to Willie's life.  It could not begin to unravel because it was never raveled together in the first place.  As Naipaul has told his story, he was a lost soul  the moment he  was conceived by a Brahmin father and a Dalit mother.  He has never cared about anything but himself - and even regarding himself - he  only cares about sexual urges.   He is a cockroach - albeit a very intelligent and introspective one.

This novel begins in Berlin where Willie had fled Mozambique to finally begin living his own life.  I had predicted that he would just continue his sexual adventures, but I was wrong.  Instead, his sister sends him to join the Maoist insurgents in India.  Given his absent personality, he has a natural ability to hide in plain sight - but that is his only martial ability.  Eventually he manages to half-heartedly kill some hapless peasant -- and then as the local insurgency collapses, he finds himself in jail.

I'm not sure that we can rely Naipaul to know anything about Indian prisons (or Maoist insurgents) -- but if his depiction is accurate, those prisons exemplify a wrong-headed compassion where captured rebels are encouraged to organize their own ideological activities.