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In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul

In a Free State (1971)

by V. S. Naipaul

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8741515,783 (3.36)91
"In A Free State" is set in an imaginary state in Africa against a background of civil conflict. The book travels from America to London to Africa. The first third focuses on the fortunes of Santosh, a young Indian servant, at the mercy of this dreams, of his employers and of the countries in which he is plunged. It then moves into the world of expats in Africa, of government officers and radio people, attempting to understand the country they have found themselves in, to match their ideas to reality. And as always, in the background the threat of violence looms. The voices in this novel are breathtakingly vivid, the feelings of the characters portrayed with an intelligence and sensitivity that is rarely seen in contemporary writing.… (more)



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English (14)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I was bored to tears with this book and stopped reading it halfway through.
  John_Danenbarger | Sep 2, 2019 |
This book was suffering from racism. Bodies, prejudice, humiliation, homesickness, snobbery, smells, murder, covered in a thick layer of mud, decay, dishonesty and brutal honesty. Ineffective escapes in hotels, back of the pick up truck, deserts,over the horizon, drink and education. Not good enough, not one of them. Brilliant writing - hard on humanity.
  joannajuki | Jun 10, 2019 |
I can see why Robert McCrum chose this for the 1970s nominee for the Golden Booker. It may not be better than some of the other excellent winners, but it's very very good. Is it Naipaul's best? I don't know, I haven't read all the novels, but his best is very good indeed.

This is a series of thematically connected stories with two very short journal-entry vignettes bookending the beginning and end. There are two short-ish stories and one novella (the latter being the titular story). All consider the issues raised by immigration, colonialism, exile, and color/race supremacy. The three major pieces are quite different from each other in terms of plot and character, but the threads connecting them are clear.

Naipaul is hard to read. He's at best pitiless and at worst cruel. But his writing is so phenomenal, his eye so acute, and his evocation of the natural and built worlds so penetrating (from beautiful to horrible as the subject requires), that he demands to be read, carefully and thoroughly.

ETA: The way Naipaul depicts African people is frequently painful, even more than his usual unsparingly cruel eye. In the main story these depictions are primarily through the perspective of the main characters, who are mostly unlikable, but he is definitely making points about the extent to which humans resemble the less pleasant aspects of animals (or just animals in general). But it *is* painful for the reader. ( )
  Sunita_p | May 18, 2019 |
I read this along side Neel Mukherjee's A State of Freedom. Naipaul makes me itch all over but I see what's good about him and this is a really brilliant novel that busts out of the genre in an amazing way. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Feb 15, 2018 |
3 short stories and 1 main one (not very long either, really!). I preferred the short stories to the main event! ( )
  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Naipaul, V. S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golüke, GuidoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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De oversteek van Piraeus naar Alexandrië duurde slechts twee dagen, maar zodra ik de groezelige kleine Griekse schuit zag, kreeg ik het gevoel dat ik anders had moeten reizen.
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