Thursday, 23 July 2009

Guerrillas- V.S Naipaul

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.

Ciao all.


Nona said...

Congratulations. Finally, you wrote a book review. :)

Waiting for more like these.

Rahul Anand said...

Great review mate. Hadn't heard of this book before, I guess 'A House for Mr. Biswas' is his more famous work.

nice to hear about the concept of trying out everything in life :)

Aparna said...

So finally the book review you had been promising us!
Probably I am intellectually challenged but I stay away from Naipaul.How many days did you take to finish this one? Most of his books drag a bit and my interest begins to wane.
So you think marijuana and ecstacy pills are not drugs? Hmmmm, wondering whether you will have the same thoughts when your daughter grows up.

ZiLliOnBiG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gymnast said...

hey that was a nice review. I havent read this book.

I am currently with " the world is flat".

After this Anna Karenina which i havent read till now.

I hear some architects take marijuana and designs come floating into their heads.

Considering the struglle i have with design now , should i be trying marijuana?

Oh..and women are from venus!

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Gymnast: Nice to know you are into classics. I have always wanted to read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, but couldn't. I will be buying dostoyevsky for sure on my next trip home. Its a once in a life time experience to try marijuana, but i dont recommend you to try it. I had a clasmate who played amazing levels of CHESS after a joint. Its true you concentrate hard and also hallucinate.but if you are talented and focus at your work, design would come by itself...:)))

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Nona: Thanks buddy, glad that you liked

@Rahul: Thanks mate.Humm, its nice to try once. But to know whats not to try again is wisdom.

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Aparna: Thanks, yes it took a week for me to finish 200 odd pages. But i still loved the book when i finished it. It has substance and i feel the satisfaction of having read a good book.

Re: Drugs, they are drugs. I dont recommend anyone to try them ever,but its so available and prevailing. I passed out from a premier Professional college, and around 90 % of guys( around half of girls) tried these things.

And presently, i dont even smoke and i have left even Beer completely since my daughter was born. :). One doesnt get addicted to these drugs.atleast who is sensible enough.

le embrouille blogueur said...

I actually liked this book ... I also loved Half a Life ....Bend In A River ... I like his style because I find it free flowing can just keep reading and not have to think too much ....just imagine of course ... great review ...good stuff !!

SJ said...

"A good but am extremely slow read. I was yawning through out" this one sentence sums up the book for me :P and the prose, nopes I don't think I can read this book.

But hey, you did a good job on the review!

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@LEB: I havent read ...bend in a river.... i would soon. Yes, its free flowing and readable . actually his style is quite easy to read but the interwoven plot and characters take time to understand.Thanks Buddy.:)

@SJ: Dont go by my last line. The book is good, but yea...slow one. But once you cross 100 pages ..the momentum gains. You would love it by the end of it. Thanks::)

Smita said...

Hey thats a good review :-)

2 years back I had picked A House for Mr. Biswas after reading some fantastic reviews. Am yet to finish it!!! Not that the book wans't good but it was too detailed. I am however planning the pick the book again :)

Won't be picking this book for sure :-)

Gayathri said...

So it was not afteral a mere hype-your book review-considering the fact that it turned out really really well.. :)
and i loved these lines, "His intellectualism was a sham, a misuse of the mind, a series of expedients"..the deceptive fantasy is articulated awesomely..
I have never read a classic before,becoz i'm not a fast reader and i get bored quite soon..

Neha said...

nice review...well, dude, u ve patience to finish a slow book...i ve jus started reading to kill a mocking bird by harper seems quite slow...lets see..
pls come up with more reviews..:)

Swatantra said...

Nice review.. COngratulation!!

Waiting to read a book from you not a book review..

numerounity said...

Finally you did it!!! After 5 posts since promise.

Congrats1 Loved the prologue more! Yes book sounds boring but ur review makes it short:)

R. Ramesh said...

hey u have put it all so nicely now i dont have to read "Guerrillas" book...thanks..and keep up the cheers..

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Smita: A House for Mr. an amazing book, probably his finest. Its much easier read that this book. I agree first 100 pages are detailed and a repetitive style of narration. One would need extreme patience...but once into the grove its an intoxicating experience.

After reading this book, i was asking for more. I had a sense of satisfaction. This book is too violent and explicit towards the end. The ending and the last chapter is shocking. You need to have certain level maturity to grasp and appreciate the book. Thanks :)

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Gay3: Hype?, was i creating a hype?....hehe, it was unintentional. I was feeling guilty that i was promising, but was not writing one.You know, one need to focus and be in the right mood to write a review of a book which is complex and an acclaimed one. Today i felt i was in the right mood, so wrote it in one go, took about an hour to finish. Edited it, and checked for typos and then posted it. Glad that you liked.

Read classics, or otherwise read too much of pop fiction (archer, Harry potter, etc), and after some time your DIL Will Ask for more( DIL MAnGE MORE). I reached a stage where i couldnt finish half through Dan brown,Fredrick forsyth, Ludlum, or Jeffrey archer, i got so bored of reading the same stuff over and over again . If you could sit through GOD OF SMALL THINGS, then you could also read so many classics.If you need something to really move you or titillate your intellect, you need to read classics. Start with One. Thanks:)

The Panorama said...

Well written Zillionbig, but am an impatient reader and if the book had you yawning am not sure it's up my alley. But it was an interesting review. You should do more:)

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Neha: WOW you are reading "to kill a mocking bird"? Read it slow, understand and read. Its an amazing book. I read it first in high school and read it again several times. Its one of the best books i have read so far. Its extremely emotional and touchy book.I had tears reading it and if i read it again, i am sure i will again have it. Cherish each moment of reading it. Good luck:))

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Swatantra: Hehe, Thanks. Inshallah, one day. I still need maturity and grasp over the craft of narration.Thanks :))

@Numero: No, The book is interesting. But slow initially. Read it, i wont say no. Thanks:)))

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@ Ramesh: Thanks buddy. Cheers:)

@ Panorama: Thanks:). Impatient i am too, but the best way to practice patience is to read classics. Thanks:)

Sucharita Sarkar said...

WOW!Naipaul is serious LITERATURE, and your review makes him so very approachable! Great stuff!

Keshi said...

No men are from Earth. Thats why they never u'stand women and see em as aliens. lol!

**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.

I really loved that part. I think u just stirred a need in me to read this book somehow. I hv a book-voucher gift too, that I got for my bday. I will use it now :)

tnxx for the great review!


Babli said...

Heartiest congratulations to you for writing the book review.I read it not once but thrice and enjoyed very much.Its very interesting and I appreciate for your beautiful presentation.Keep it up!

extremity said...

i liked the preface more :)and V.S Naipaul is a reader i havnt tried yet.i got to read him soon.and congrats for ur work.i do believe book review is a tedious job and too responsible..yeah potter and jeffrey are exceptions.. :))

kavita said...

I have never read Naipul before...your review sure encourages to do so..because your writing is so impressive ,something you recommend must be worth trying...Thanks for sharing.

P said...

I AGREE with you.

Variety (book wise) is indeed the spice of life!
In my teenage years I stuck to 'Archer, Robin Cook, Grisham and Hailey' then moved to 'potter' in my early tweens. Only couple years ago, I decided to widen my reading interests.. more so for variety. Not cause I got bored... I am a HUGE sucker for 'thrillers' and 'suspense' so CAN never be bored of them...but thought was missing picked others!

wandering thoughts said...

an very interesting and lively review of the book ..tho i am not much of a V.S.Naipaul fan, i liked your review of this book mostly because of the peppy style of your write-up!

Nikki said...

It is a good write up! I just did a book review too. Read it on my blog if you like.

I liked V.S Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas. Haven't read much of his work though...

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

Haa…Naipaul. I’ve just finished reading ‘A Bend in the River’ and I don’t know why it took so long to start reading Naipaul. I just want to read everything by and about Naipaul. Just about everything including fiction, nonfiction and his authorized biography by Patrick French; ‘The World is What it is’. And the title as you may know, was taken from the opening line of ‘A Bend…’ . ( I can’t resist quoting it here: “The world is what it is. Men who are nothing, men who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”) What an opening line. Thanks for the review, hoping for more…

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Sucharita: He is, a Nobel winner, but his prose is simple nd interesting. So try it, its not hard. i would say easier than even Rushdie.Thanks:)

@Keshi: Thanks. But if you want to read his best try, A bend in the river , or A house for mr.Biswas. Thanks:)

ZiLliOnBiG said...


@Kavita: Thanks:)

@P: Agree with you. Variety is the curry powder/Garam masala of LIFE.TC:))

ZiLliOnBiG said...

@Wandering: thanks and its always a pleasure.

@Nikki: A a fantastic book. This is more a political book, a bit violent and explicit. But nice nevertheless.Thanks:)

@Arun: Thanks buddy. And your comment was informative. I havent read *a bend...*, thats my next book. Cheers:)