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An Area of Darkness Paperback – July 9, 2002
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“This is India. I don’t know any other book that comes so near to capturing the whole crazy spectrum. . . . Brilliant.” –John Wain, The Observer
“His narrative skill is spectacular. One returns with pleasure to the slow hand-in-hand revelation of both India and himself. . . . There is a kind of displaced person who has a better sense of place than anybody: Mr. Naipaul is an outstanding example.” –The Times (London)
“[Naipaul’s] penetrating, opinionated travel writing . . . makes up a remarkable running commentary on the clash of civilizations.” –The New York Times
From the Inside Flap
Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras, Naipaul encounters a dizzying cross-section of humanity: browbeaten government workers and imperious servants, a suavely self-serving holy man and a deluded American religious seeker. An Area of Darkness also abounds with Naipaul's strikingly original responses to India's paralyzing caste system, its apparently serene acceptance of poverty and squalor, and the conflict between its desire for self-determination and its nostalgia for the British raj. The result may be the most elegant and passionate book ever written about the subcontinent.
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Top Customer Reviews
Naipaul's bluntness produced a scandal and much misunderstanding. At closer inspection, however, his unflinching look at unpleasant realities (beyond his politically incorrect asides) reveals a man who is deeply troubled by what he sees. When he writes he transforms his anger into lucid, detailed observations. It is a stylistic attribute that also defines his later travel writing about India ("India: A Wounded Civilization," 1977; "India: A Million Mutinies Now," 1991) and about the predominantly Muslim countries of Asia ("Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey", 1981; "Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among The Converted Peoples", 1998).
In this early book published in 1964, his working method is revealed in more detail than in the later books. Naipaul decided to write about the flagrantly visible things whose existence is being denied, and about those personal experiences that are fresh and not worn out by having been described by other authors of travelogues.
The themes of the first four chapters can be summarized in the words poverty, caste, defecation, and failure. But Naipaul being Naipaul manages to transform the squalor of the world he observes into clean, cold and lucid prose.Read more ›
It begins inauspiciously enough with some amusing but not too jarring description of the endless troubles involved in bringing a bottle of liquor into India. We've all heard of India's elephantine bureaucracy, and Naipaul confirms to us that this is (was?) the case. Of much greater interest are the little fables he weaves to explain his view of how in India function is more important than action (i.e., ritual cleanliness is much more important than actual cleanliness) and gestures count more than reality (although this is common to many third world countries). Contrary to the impression a foreigner might have of chaos and aimlessness, India is in fact strictly regulated to a degree unknown in the West. Everyone has a place and a function, and such place and function are infinitely more significant to an Indian than what a Westerner's profession or skin colour might be to him. This provides a transition to another of Naipaul's interests, which is the nature of the relationship between the Indian Republic and the British Raj. According to Naipaul, the idea of Britishness is inextricably bound up with the Indian empire, and the British created themselves as an imperial people with a God-given mission, even as they created the Indians as a subordinate (inferior) race and state. Bound up with these deep meditations are the stories of his dealings with various landlords and hoteliers.Read more ›
However, all this changed in the 1990s. Freed from the worst of the soviet-style regulatory burdens, India's economy and society has moved forward with a pace that is only surpassed by China's. It hasn't done so fast enough to solve deep-seated socio-economic problems that keep getting exacerbated by an ever-growing population, but compared to Mr. Naipaul's "Area of Darkness", India resonates with hope and its people with a deep impatience to get a move on to better times.
Read this book for its historical context but don't delude yourself by thinking this is the India of today. For that, you need to refer to something more recent.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mr. Naipaul is so down on India and her people. Having been in India -most recently- I found the Indians gracious, helpful, kind, and quite wonderful. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Albert V. lesley
V.S.N has this unique view about India. He is born here, but raised in the WestIndies (Trinidad) - a Commonwealth nation. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Dharmesh Mistry
For those westerners who love India, Naipaul gives voice to why it is so difficult to explain this very sad love and wonderous attraction.Published on January 17, 2014 by Jeremiah Midwinter
It's just a travel guide. The author definitely depicted an age old India..was not at all interesting. Stopped it half way through!Published on April 13, 2013 by Deepa Ganesh
Naipaul who is a writer a greatly admire seems to have got ahead of himself and written this garbage when he was in an inebriated condition. Read morePublished on June 9, 2012 by Shailesh
When V.S. Naipaul returned in the early 1960s to the country of his ancestors, India, he was brutally confronted with a paralyzing caste system, abject poverty, disastrous hygiene... Read morePublished on February 2, 2012 by Luc REYNAERT
This book describes the problems with the caste system and the problems after the English left. It has vivid accounts of bueracracy and absurd poverty.Published on November 23, 2010 by Grace M. Smith
Naipaul relates his experiences traveling to India with beautiful, trenchant prose. Every page is a delight. Such brilliance.Published on October 26, 2009 by S. Kelly