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An Area of Darkness Paperback – July 9, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Whatever his literary form, Naipaul is a master.” –The New York Review of Books

“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

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A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness is V. S. Naipaul?s profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375708359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375708350
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Boris Bangemann on April 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
V.S. Naipaul is a man of strong opinions, and they are often politically incorrect. He is the man who once, infamously, called the Third World the "turd world." This book is about one of his early forays into the turd world. I imagine that it did not please the Indian Tourism Board to read that India is "the world's largest slum" or that Indians are "a withered race of men." Not surprisingly, the young Naipaul - just barely into his thirties when he wrote this book - got labeled as a reactionary and a lapdog of the former colonial power in India.
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.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Antonio on November 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In his native Trinidad Naipaul had always somehow been of India without being Indian. After 12 years in London, and possibly in an attempt to regain some sense of his own roots, he decided to take a sabbatical year in India in 1962. This book is the fruit of that year.
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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this book the first time in 1987. In the 19 years since it was written, India had hardly moved, stifled by Nehruvian bureaucracy and a cynical polity that simply invented more and more regulation to plunder India's economy.
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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Ebel on October 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
I loved the book from the beginning. The author's arrival in Bombay, the bureaucratic, typically Indian red tape he encounters, that's the way it is. But India is more for most foreigners and also for the author: A love - hate relationship all well described not omitting one detail and written in beautiful language. The book has drawbacks though: This is clearly a view by someone who was brought up in Trinidad and sees India in comparison with a colony. Some chapters especially tho one on the author's stay in Kashmir are never ending and tiresome to follow through. However all in all a must for India experts, lovers and others interested in this country. Not necessarily recommendable for tourists who intend to spend only a few weeks in that area of darkness, which did not even reveal itself to the author.
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