Half a Life: A Novel

Half a Life: A Novel

V.S. Naipaul

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 037570728X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In a narrative that moves with dreamlike swiftness from India to England to Africa, Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul has produced his finest novel to date, a bleakly resonant study of the fraudulent bargains that make up an identity.

The son of a Brahmin ascetic and his lower-caste wife, Willie Chandran grows up sensing the hollowness at the core of his father's self-denial and vowing to live more authentically. That search takes him to the immigrant and literary bohemias of 1950s London, to a facile and unsatisfying career as a writer, and at last to a decaying Portugese colony in East Africa, where he finds a happiness he will then be compelled to betray. Brilliantly orchestrated, at once elegiac and devastating in its portraits of colonial grandeur and pretension, Half a Life represents the pinnacle of Naipaul's career.

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and the courts, and from the girl as well. But it pained me more than I can say to be put on a par with that lawyer. I thought it unfair that my simple life of sacrifice had taken that turn. I had wished, after all, only to follow the great men of our country. Fate, tossing me about, had made me a hero to people who, fighting their own petty caste war, wished to pull them down. For three months or so I lived in this way, accepting homage from temple visitors, not noticing their gifts, and of

offers to buy one of the half-dead tribal children. He makes this deal with the tribal headman: the child is to be drugged and taken to a certain low cave in the rocky wilderness and left there. If this is fairly and honestly done, a week later the tribal man will find a piece of old treasure in the cave, enough to take all his followers out of their distress. The sacrifice is done, the piece of old treasure laid down; and from year to year this ritual goes on, for the brahmin, and for the

in other parts threatening to go back to bush. From within these cool and comfortable houses the climate itself seemed like a blessing, as though the wealth of the people had brought about a change in nature, and the climate had ceased to be the punishing disease-laden thing it had been for Ana's grandfather and others in the early days. In the beginning I wished only to be taken into this rich and safe life, so beyond anything I had imagined for myself, and I could be full of nerves when I met

one side, against her shoulder, like a bird settling down to sleep. And, as often with her when she was soothsaying or storytelling, we couldn't tell at the end how we had got to where we had got. Everybody just had to look solemn and stay quiet for a while. Bad time or not, the Correias went off to Europe, to see their children and then to do other things. They stayed away for many months. * I GOT TO KNOW their estate manager. I saw a lot of him in the town. He was a small and wiry mixed-race

room in London. I also thought of Júlio's daughter, who as a young girl had tried to make polite conversation with me; who had stolen my passport and papers; and whom I had seen but not acknowledged in one of the places of pleasure. Ana said, “I don't know whether she put it there. Or whether she squatted on the bed.” I said, “Don't think like that. Just think that you're getting rid of her in the morning.” She said, “I want you to stand by in the morning. Don't show yourself, but stand by, in

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