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A Night to Remember

Guerrillas

GuerrillasGuerrillas by V.S. Naipaul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last Naipaul I read, A House for Mr. Biswas, disappointed me, but this one has great force. It is a complex rumination on post-colonial life -- identity, race, power, sex, and politics.

Set in an unnamed Caribbean island based on Naipaul's own Trinidad, the island is independent and self-governing, but still dominated by the British colonial elite. The main characters are white liberals who find their politics and sentimentality overcome by events, particularly in their complex relationships with a local politician and a local black power revolutionary. Throughout the novel the dread is slowly unwinding until the terrifying ending.

Since I have read Patrick French's biography of Naipaul, I can't read Naipaul anymore without the lens of that biography. Naipaul had arranged for French to write an authorized biography, and French's final work is highly critical of Naipaul the person, painting him as misogynist, ambitious, arrogant, and a user in a way that destroys the women in his life. Naipaul allowed the biography to go forward, but has dismissed its portrayal of him.

I couldn't distance myself from reading Naipaul' portrayal of Jane, one of the main characters in Guerrillas, as itself misogynistic. So, that adds it own layer of complexity -- not only are gender and sex important themes in the novel, they are in the approach to the story by the author and reader.

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