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Guerrillas Paperback – September 12, 1990

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Editorial Reviews


'Impeccable prose, precise, austere, modulating always from place to people to dialogue with a fastidious reserve. Guerrillas seems to me Naipaul's Heart of Darkness: a brilliant artist's anatomy of emptiness, and of despair' Observer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

A novel of colonialism and revolution, death, sexual violence and political and spiritual impotence.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (September 12, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679731741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679731740
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By on September 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
Having just finished reading GUERRILLAS, I surfed over to read what others thought. The other reviews left me somewhat staggered and altogether bewildered. GUERRILLAS is set on a benighted and misbegotten Caribbean island in modern (that is to say, postcolonial) times. The novel is not set in Africa. Pointedly, the book's power derives in part from its portrayal of Caribbean rhythms, the oppressive and ominous atmosphere of the coconut plantation, the tribal background beat of "the reggae" (Naipaul's phrase). The second great strength of this novel is its depiction of human frailites, transgressions, and moral breakdowns. An expatriate English couple and a West-Indian would-be revolutionary are the three main characters, and the agonizing (and mostly self-destructive) sexual and philosophic choices they are faced with ring true to life. The compromises and rationalizations they make to themselves and each other result in their irrevocable mental and moral deterioration. The fragility of the social setting in which Jane, Roche, and Jimmy find themselves leads to infidelity, sexual abuse, murder, and what can be just as horrifying as any of these, the voluntary surrender of one's soul. Finally, the novel's powerful, profound ending arrestingly reveals the enigmatic and conflicted essence of postcolonial consciousness. GUERRILLAS is a minor masterpiece.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dean Kane, M.D. on February 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Analyses of V.S. Naipaul's Guerillas
V.S. Naipaul's novel, Guerillas tells the story of Peter Roche, a South African resistance fighter, his mistress Jane, and a revolutionary leader Jimmy Ahmed. The book unfolds on a former British colony in the Caribbean during the 1970`s. This Island is inhabited with Asians, Africans, Americans and former British colonials. Racial and economic tensions are ever present and the islanders are said to "coexist in hysteria." Peter Roche has made his way to the island to "work," while his mistress, Jane, has come along to join Peter for her own reasons. From Jane's point of view, initially, Peter was a doer and had a cause. He was saint-like and gentle. However as the novel progressed, she began to see Peter in a different light. Furthermore, from his own perspective, Peter was a failure, and inadequate in the eyes of Jane, who he grew to seek approval from. It was Jane's ultimate rejection of Peter via her sexual indecencies that enabled Peter, in an attempt to salvage his pride, to overlook the forced sodemy and murder of his wife by Jimmy Ahmed.
Peter Roche was a South African freedom fighter. Though he was white, he readily fought for the black man and even risked his life for apartheid. He authored a book about his experiences in South Africa. He was tortured by the South African government and was asked to recount his memoirs in a book. It was under these pretences that he had met his mistress Jane. She was in the publishing business and used his book as an excuse to get to know him. Jane was portrayed as a character that lived through her men. She seemed incomplete without a man. Further, it seemed as if she was searching for a rich, powerful, handsome man that could finance her life and make her a complete person.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By a reader on July 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Even though it's barely 250 pages, it took me months to finish Guerrillas. The novel's island is a place of poverty and decay, and Naipaul uses long and labored descriptions to make us actually feel the stagnant despair. Unfortunately, the descriptions don't so much paint a picture in our mind's eye as simply exasperate our patience.
What's more, for the first two-hundred pages almost nothing happens. Our characters find themselves on the sidelines, powerless, and perhaps unwilling to do anything for the impovrished people whose suffering seemed to draw them across the Atlantic to begin with.
Style further follows substance because the novel, like its characters, seldom attempts to understand the suffering of the island's racially oppressed people. We have no account of the problems of their current government or the specifics of their colonial history. Their suffering is treated only as part of the landscape as seen through the eyes of an outsider or tourist. Our protagonists claim to be on the island to affect positive change, but it's their underlying self-interest that concerns Naipaul most and serves as the novel's primary conceit. Slowly, he uncovers the seemingly bottomless vanity and vulnerability of his characters. Eventually he strips sympathy from sufferering and righteousness from social activism (while dabbling in more-than-a-little misogyny).
It's outlook isn't sunny, but the novel is both memorable and effective. I can see how others would disagree, and I can't recommend it to the casual reader unless he's particularly interested in the tension between liberalism and self-interest.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Hodgson on June 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
An overall sense of doom and nihilism permeates the novel, and Naipaul's laconic and repetitive style is just as effective in describing the drought-plauged landscape of the island nation as it is in exploring the dysfunctional relationships between the characters.
Naipaul's characters have a tendency to digress into purely political exchanges that sometimes (at least to the North American reader) seem to come at the expense of character development. But this style of writing is by no means accidental. The novel is set on an impoverished Caribbean island where, in Naipaul's words, "politics...was often a man's only livelihood".
The relationship between the outsiders (visiting foreigners) and the insiders (the native population) defines the novel.
Meredith Hebert, a peripheral cabinet minister for the moribund ruling party, is juxtaposed against Peter Roche, an exiled anti-apartheid subversive from South Africa. Meredith struggles to understand Roche's apparent political apathy and indifference, even regarding his own torture at the hands of the South African regime. Roche's mistress, Jane, carelessly dabbles in the life and affairs of Jimmy Ahmed, the narcissistic and irresponsible leader of a failed commune and a reluctant and ineffective revolutionary.
And Harry de Tunja, the wealthy local, just wants to get off of the island and is consequently branded a pariah in his own community.
I was not familiar with the historical events that inspired Naipaul to write the novel, so I didn't know how things were ultimately going to turn out. Perhaps it was partly for this reason that I found the ending particularly gripping and well written. The final chapter is a convincing description of the subtle lunacy that ultimately characterizes all human tragedies.
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