Finally I have decided to write my first book review. I believe in trying out everything in life at least once. I have tried so many things, just for the heck of it , but however unintelligent I may sound, I have this shield of logic which filters harmful UV rays( read: false criticism, back biting, wrong addictions, fragile ego etc) and protects me from declining into a “wrong approach of existence”. I was diminutive of the right kind of motivation to write one, and finally, I think I am all set. Here I go.
I believe one has to read all sorts of books. Restricting oneself to just Harry potter, Jeffrey Archer or PLAYBOY is a felony against oneself. There were times when I read only Women’s magazines( which I already mentioned in previous posts), and believe me woman’s magazine is partly responsible for my right side of the brain being so overdeveloped. No wonder women know about men much more than men know about women, or even their own kind. After all women are from Venus and men are from Jupiter( Pssst, or was it some other planet? ). Sorry, I strayed from the topic.
The book review.
I wouldn’t say this is the best book I have ever read. V.S Naipaul has written much better books, which include ‘A House for Mr.Biswas’, But this has a class of its own.
GUERRILLAS is set on a colonized Caribbean island in modern (that is to say, postcolonial) times. The strength of this novel according to me is its depiction of human infirmities, misdemeanor, and moral breakdowns.
The novel is set on a former British colony (we have to assume it as Trinidad) in the Caribbean. The time though not mentioned is 1970’s. The island is inhabited with Americans, Asians, Africans and colonists and economic tensions are as much discernible as the prevailing racial tensions.
Into this setup, Peter Roche, a South African Resistance fighter and his mistress Jane walks into and meets a revolutionary called Jimmy Ahmed. When the story starts, Jane is awed by Peter and thinks of him as “a doer and for a cause”. He was “saint-like and gentle”. However as the novel progresses, she begins to see Peter in a different light. However on the other hand, Peter thinks of himself as a failure and “inadequate” in the eyes of Jane, whom he seeks approval in matters of his concern. Slowly she starts to get bored with him and the whole scene and starts to think, to quote from the book, “His intellectualism was a sham, a misuse of the mind, a series of expedients,”.
The other prominent character Jimmy Ahmed is a “mulatto” (half Chinese half black) who married a mysterious English woman and lived in London near Wimbledon before coming to the Caribbean. Since his moving into the island he has become the leader of the “ Revolution for land”, which fights against the Government for its rights. Jimmy is portrayed as a dark character and a criminal, disguised as a revolutionary. His many deeds are mentioned, which are shady and also his homosexual relationship with Bryant, one of the boys living in a commune called Thrushcross Grange that has many black boys living in it.
Meanwhile, Jane is bored with Peter and the whole scene of revolution and decides to carry on a relationship with Jimmy, “more from spite than love”.
Jimmy invites Jane and they both end up having, to quote the book, "had intercourse with her,".(haha, sounds funny, I know).
Jane realizes that her relationship with Peter is over and decides to move back to London , away from the detestable island, that she was made to live so far because of him. She decides to meet Jimmy for the final time to say Goodbye, for whom she has a secret desire and fantasies of his masculinity. To quote her, “ his great civility and urbane charm”. Unknown to her of his dark character, He advances to “sodemize” her and brings her to Bryant ( his servant boy, with whom he has a homosexual relationship), who "cuts her up" and brutally kills her.
Meanwhile, Peter comes to know of Jane’s murder and understands that it would be Jimmy and his boys who had killed her. He is upset but overlooks the murder, because if he concedes it, it would bring him shame. He realizes that he would otherwise have had to get rid of her given that her rejection of him is too much for him to handle. His ego, his feelings of failure coupled with his rejection by the people of the island was a “slap on his face”. He realizes that otherwise he would have to cope with her having cheated him and trying to leave him, insulting his self-esteem. The novel ends with him ending-up welcoming Jane's murder though reluctantly and remorsefully, seeing that it allows him to continue living.
The writer ends the story rendering certain Poetic justice to the characters, but it isn’t as easy a read as I made it sound. There are many more complex characters and sub plots which takes us through the life of slavery, extreme poverty and injustice. The book is also as much about suppression and the redundant calls for revolution, overlooking the real cause or the deviation a revolution accrues after a point of time, refusing to abide on the principles of the cause it was started in the first place. It details the plight of the native American inhabitants of the island, refusing to let the resistance( guerillas) take hold of the government since that would jeopardize their bauxite mining and hence their very livelihood.
I would recommend this book to extreme readers, who want a change from the routine and run-of-the-mill stories which we find over and over again in the book shelves of posh book stores. It talks about the people, who appear far away and unfamiliar to us culturally, but whose very existence and struggles appear universal; that of oppression and disadvantaged by the very people who rule them and shut them from the privileges that they are so entitled.
I am adding an excerpt from the book just to give a picture; the beauty of his Prose.
In the first film poitier was a man with a gun. Bryant always enjoyed it, but he knew it was made-up and he didn’t allow himself to believe in it. The second film was 'For the love of Ivy'. It was Bryant’s Favorite; it made him cry but it also made him laugh a lot , and it was his favorite. Soon he had surrendered to it: seeing in the Poitier of that film a version of himself that no one- but no one, and that was the terrible part- would ever get to know: the man who had died within the body Bryant carried, shown in that film in all his truth, the man Bryant knew to be himself, without the edginess and the anger and the pretend ugliness, the laughing man, the tender joker. Watching the film, he began to grieve for what was denied him: that future in which he became what he truly was, not a man with a gun, a big profession or big talk, but himself, and as himself was loved and readmitted to the house and to the people in the house. He began to sob; and other people were sobbing with him.
A good but am extremely slow read. I was yawning through out, but the book has enough in it to leave you with a very long lasting but unconsciously cataleptic afterthoughts.And without question V.S Naipaul is a master storyteller, the most brilliant and the rarest of its kind.