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Half A Life
by V.S. Naipaul

Book Description
Half a Life is the story of Willie Chandran, whose father, heeding the call of Mahatma Gandhi, turned his back on his brahmin heritage and married a woman of low caste—a disastrous union he would live to regret, as he would the children that issued from it. When Willie reaches manhood, his flight from the travails of his mixed birth takes him from India to London, where, in the shabby haunts of immigrants and literary bohemians of the 1950s, he contrives a new identity. This is what happens as he tries to defeat self-doubt in sexual adventures and in the struggle to become a writer—strivings that bring him to the brink of exhaustion, from which he is rescued, to his amazement, only by the love of a good woman. And this is what happens when he returns with her—carried along, really—to her home in Africa, to live, until the last doomed days of colonialism, yet another life not his own.

In a luminous narrative that takes us across three continents, Naipaul explores his great theme of inheritance with an intimacy and directness unsurpassed in his extraordinary body of work. And even as he lays bare the bitter comical ironies of assumed identities, he gives us a poignant spectacle of the enervation peculiar to a borrowed life. In one man’s determined refusal of what he has been given to be, Naipaul reveals the way of all our experience. As Willie comes to see, “Everything goes on a bias. The world should stop, but it goes on.” A masterpiece of economy and emotional nuance, Half a Life is an indelible feat of the imagination.

From: Sherry Keller Date: Thursday, January 15, 2004 03:15 PM The beginning of this book really intrigued me, since I had loved Razor's Edge and the first character (the father of Willie Chandran) is supposed to be in that book. Later, when we were in Willie's story, I wanted some resolution to his father's story. Willie is one of the most passive protagonists I've ever encountered in fiction. Everything he does seems to be solely a reaction. He reminds me of a leaf being tossed about in a storm. Were you all engaged by him? I felt at a distance. I'm sure I'm missing lots in this book. What do you all think? Sherry
From: Dale Short Date: Thursday, January 15, 2004 03:59 PM Sherry: I'm not yet finished with this one, but my reaction so far is exactly the same as yours. This is my first encounter with Naipaul so I have no context, but "passive" is definitely the operative word for me. And that quality of the main character seems exacerbated by the writer's terse, straightforward prose style. (I admit, I'm a sucker for rich style...not frills necessarily, but at least some meat on the linguistic bone and I'm finding very little here to chew on.) Considering the praise from so many sources for Naipaul's work in general and this book in particular, though, I suppose I'm missing something. By chance, this week I came across a quote from Sartre: "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you." If that's the case, then the extent of Willie's freedom is, as you suggest, that of a leaf blowing in the wind. >>Dale in Ala.
From: Mary Ellen Burns Date: Friday, January 16, 2004 01:47 PM Sherry & Dale, I expect to finish this book by the end of the weekend. You have expressed my own thoughts perfectly. This is the first Naipaul book I've read and I have that "I must be missing something" feeling, too. Mary Ellen
From: R Bavetta Date: Friday, January 16, 2004 01:59 PM Whether or not the protagonist was likeable (and to me he was not), this novel was a scathing indictment of the caste and/or class system. However, I found it surprising that he didn't go into that in England, too. R
From: Sherry Keller Date: Friday, January 16, 2004 02:02 PM I agree with you there, Ruth. Maybe one of his points was that the caste system sometimes creates passivity. If you weren't passive, you'd kill yourself knocking your head against the wall. Sherry
From: Pres Lancaster Date: Friday, January 16, 2004 02:05 PM If you weren't passive, you'd kill yourself knocking your head against the wall. ~ Sherry Like under the Bush Administration ? pres
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Friday, January 16, 2004 11:59 PM What struck me was the exploration of the deleterious effects of social hierarchies, whether they be the caste system in India, the color coded classes of western civilization, or colonization of one culture over another. All of these dynamics lead to Willy’s half a life. Willy's identity was constantly being split with the result of never being in command of his full faculties or potential. I think Sherry said it well, too: Willy’s passivity was shaped by the social structures. Willy’s experience in colonial Africa was the best part of the novel for me. Even with the terse, not-much-linguistic-meat-on-the-bone style (I know what you mean, Dale) the final segment was evocative and satisfying to read. With impressive economy he revealed a great deal about what it was like to live there in the half ‘n half society. Does anyone know what country this is? What are the actual Portuguese colonies in East Africa? Did he just make it up? There were many parallels to Angola, so many, that I suspect it’s a kind of faux Angola. Faugola? It’s getting late and I should quit while I’m ahead. Robt
From: Barbara Moors Date: Saturday, January 17, 2004 02:55 PM I finished Half a Life this morning and thought that the section in Africa was superb. Also, it struck me that Willie spent his whole life waiting for someone to find him out concerning his caste in India. I was also interested that Naipaul drew the character of Sarojini, Willie's sister, as so much the stronger of the two. She began as this fairly unappealing character, both physically and in her verbal interaction with him. However, she shows absolutely no passivity and, in the end, seems in control. He even thinks she has become physically attractive. She keeps comparing him to his father and, in truth, they do seem similar. Perhaps, she is like her mother? But, she seems to have reached a better place than her mother did. Barb
From: R Bavetta Date: Saturday, January 17, 2004 03:16 PM I never had a sense of what the mother was like, except that she seemed as passive as Our Hero. She let him sit at her table, she left school to live in a storeroom... Did she ever ask him to marry her? R
From: R Bavetta Date: Saturday, January 17, 2004 03:20 PM >>>Sometimes I crave a story in which the language does its work invisibly Dale said this on the Crace thread, and I immediately thought that this is a good description of the writing in 0.5 Life. It's perfectly smooth--no bumps--but no thrills, either. R
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Saturday, January 17, 2004 04:58 PM Some thoughts. The novel ends with Willy at 41 years old: that’s half a life (82 is now a reasonable life span.) And during the first half of his life Willy lives half a life, someone who is usually partially engaged. So, I see two meanings to the title. Some parallels between Ana’s East African country and Angola (I estimate the time frames to be about the same) : 1. Portuguese African colony. 2. Agricultural society. 3. Modern coastal capital. P. 125: “The town was big and splendid, far finer than anything he had imagined, not something he would have associated with Africa.” This could describe Luanda, Angola in the late 1950’s. 4. A revolution starting in the 1960’s and culminating in independence in the 70’s when the Portuguese were ousted without a great deal of resistance. 5. Almost immediate hinterland counter revolution, backed by white ruled governments, that was far more bloody. Robt
From: R Bavetta Date: Saturday, January 17, 2004 05:56 PM I thought of Angola too, Robt. And I'm sure it was modeled on Angola, but since he went to great pains NOT to say it was Angola, I think probably he took some liberties with the facts, in order to make it work for his book. And that's okay in my book. R
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Saturday, January 17, 2004 07:30 PM Ruth, It seems like Naipaul modeled the country on Angola but put it in East Africa, which is fine with me, too. I'm just wondering if there's a Portuguese colony in East Africa. I don't know of one, but I'm rather ignorant about East Africa. Maybe Kent knows. Robt
From: Sherry Keller Date: Sunday, January 18, 2004 07:48 AM I thought the first part of the book was more engaging than the part with Willie. Maybe it's because, even though his father was a real screw-up (and wasn't it ironic that he was seen as some highly enlightened spiritual being, when really he was trying to dodge his responsibilities), he seemed to be more human, somehow. I wanted to find out so much more about that situation than we were told. Does anyone understand why he had to "steal" the girl he was sitting next to as a kind of challenge to the caste system? I realize her relative was a "firebrand", and as I think I understand it, he would have set fire to Willie's house, etc. But why would stealing the woman make a difference? And how long did she live in that workroom? And did they ever really get married? Sherry
From: Barbara Moors Date: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:10 AM I had the sense that they didn't ever get married, Sherry. He couldn't bear to go through it. I kept feeling so bad for the mother. She had the ticket to a chance in being able to go to that school and he took it away from her just by sitting by her each day. What an amazing society! I'm so surprised that you liked the father's story the most. I was never totally engaged in the book until I came to Willie's African story. Unfortunately, I know very little about African history. I appreciate your efforts to find the parallels, Robt. Barb
From: R Bavetta Date: Sunday, January 18, 2004 12:33 PM But she didn't have to let him sit with her. She could have just gotten up and moved. So why would she do this? Never explained. R
From: Jane Niemeier Date: Sunday, January 18, 2004 09:52 PM I had a similar reaction as those expressed by Dale and Sherry. I found Willie to be very annoying. He spent his whole life letting others support him financially and feeling sorry for himself because he did not know how to act in society. I wanted to shake him and to shake Ana for letting him sponge off her. In the end, there he is sponging off her sister. I don't see that she is much stronger, because she sits in her apartment while her so-called husband is with his German family. And I didn't like the style of writing either. I have a lovely Indian girl in my French V class whose father is of the Brahmin class. I asked her to explain the caste system to me. The Brahmins are the teachers and the priests, and it is perfectly acceptable to be a beggar if you are a Brahmin. People are expected to feed and take care of you. The next class is the Warrior class, followed by the Merchant class, followed by the Untouchables who do the cleaning. My student's parents were of two different castes which caused much trouble when they got married. Maybe, that is why they moved to the U.S. Jane
From: Dale Short Date: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:13 PM Jane & All: Well, I've located a scholar who agrees with us about the tone and style of HALF A LIFE, at least. Here's an excerpt from a review that appeared in World Literature Today, written by Bruce King of Muncie, Indiana: *** Major themes are conquest, colonialism, its establishment by force, its history, its nature, the social and racial orders it produces, and the problems of what replaces it. The novel suggests that life has always been a series of diasporas, of translations from one place to another, and what seems settled is actually undergoing a process of change. Behind the concern with imperialism is the more significant theme that life consists of people desiring more and trying to satisfy and advance themselves by conquering or tricking others. Although we create stories to give order to and to make sense of our lives, history repeats itself as a cycle of themes and variations. Characteristic of Half a Life is the reliance on dialogue and the telling of the histories of characters through compressed anecdotes. The fiction is influenced by Naipaul's nonfictional reportage, in which the author has largely disappeared to be replaced by voices; or, the author has become one of the characters, explaining his perspective on events in relationship to his own experiences. Because the main character lacks in passion, the tone is flat, but the story is filled with social life economically presented, and Naipaul's technique is brilliant. *** Exactly why the technique is brilliant, Mr. King sayeth not. >>Dale in Ala.
From: Barbara Moors Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 08:11 AM Ruth, I assumed that she had no choice because Willie was of a higher caste than she was. Muncie, Indiana is my birthplace. Mr. King probably teaches at Ball State University but it's a surprise to me to see it attached to a scholarly article. I think that Willie's passivity had to do with a sense of bewilderment as to what he was supposed to do in life because he doesn't see himself as a member of any group. And, it's extremely hard for us who have grown up in the U.S. culture to relate to this. Our standard of self-reliance is integral to who we are. However, Willie's culture was one of rigid caste which his father had broken. Instead of trying to go either direction, Willie tends to spin his wheels. When he starts to create a life for himself in England though his writing and radio spots, he creates a myth. And, also the radio asks him to report on the race riots without regard to his safety which takes away the little bit of trust that he has and puts an end to that relationship. And, on top of this, as Mr. King is trying to point out, I think, is the effect on a culture of a conquering country which must create even more wheel-spinning and passivity. The same dynamic is happening with the people in the African colony. Barb
From: R Bavetta Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 12:14 PM She had no choice to just get up and move when he sat at her table???? R
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 12:37 PM I assumed it was somehow wrong for her to reject someone from an upper caste, and that social convention was that she had to sit there. But that's just an assumption. Otherwise, wouldn't she have gotten up and moved somewhere else? It's all so incomprehensible to us Westerners. Does anyone know? I wanted to ask the man from India who checked me out at the grocery store today, but the woman behind me would have stabbed me with her pineapple. New Jersey is on the go; so don't be slow. Robt
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 08:25 PM Willy’s redemption is his writing, I think. His passivity has to do with his being an acute observer but not a full participant. The section about the African Colony is, after all, a story told by Willy to his sister, and it is the best writing in the novel, so he’s a good writer. Willy most likely writes in the second half of his life. He may be socially arrested, partially due to various social structures in his life, but he’s not artistically arrested. The social conundrums, and resulting personal schisms, certainly gives him something to write about, which he does wonderfully. In a way, this book is about the difference between the man and the artist, the former not being nearly as appealing as the latter. There’s the feel of honesty to this novel. I’m forever speculating about how much of a book is autobiographical, which is an academic no no, BUT, thematically this novel seems confessional. Isn’t there literary gossip about Nailpaul, some falling out with Paul Theroux and a resulting tell all book, or do I have this wrong? Robt
From: Dale Short Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 08:34 PM Robt: Yes! I'd totally forgotten about the Theroux/Naipaul connection, but now my curiosity is up. Here's how the book about Naipaul is described in a summary of a public radio interview with Theroux in 1998... *** Paul Theroux tells interviewer Steve Paulson that his new book is not a betrayal of former friend V.S. Naipaul. Theroux explains how he and Naipaul became friends; why the friendship ended; and how the friendship challenged him to match Naipaul's brilliance. The book, which shows Naipaul to be a complex and difficult man, is called "Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship across Five Continents." >>Dale in Ala.
From: Barbara Moors Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 08:42 PM Excellent observation about the artist as observer, Robt. Willie certainly was that. Barb
From: Jane Niemeier Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 09:47 PM It would be interesting to compare Willie to Gogol in THE NAMESAKE. Gogol rejects his Indian background at the beginning and makes a future for himself in this country. He is not passive. My student, who is the product of a mixed-caste marriage, came to this country in the fourth grade, knowing no English. As a senior in high school, she now speaks perfect English and is quite fluent in French. She is going to college next year. There is nothing passive about that girl. I still think that Willie uses his background as an excuse to do nothing. Jane
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Monday, January 19, 2004 11:03 PM Thanks for the name of the book, Dale. I'm tempted to read ST. VIDIA'S SHADOW, and the Morristown library has it. Robt
From: Theresa Simpson Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 04:01 AM Well, there's overt and covert action. For goodness sakes, the guy's Mother orchestrated that marriage all the way! Just like her strong-willed daughter orchestrated her own future. Just because someone isn't pounding their chest and announcing it to the world doesn't mean they aren't pulling strings. She's interesting in contrast to Willie's friend Cato, and Richard and the other English fellow latching onto wealthy women, and Marcus (?) who wanted to have white grandchildren. And Perdita and the Columbian woman. Given Willie's Mum's upbringing, she was thrust into a situation not generally available to people of her caste; like Willie, she had no social context for her personal context. So she manipulated the best compromise she could come up with. Just as every single other character in the book was up to. I liked that we were introduced to many archetype/characters, who were allowed to fade away before full-realization. Just like real life; and just like Willie's own half-life. I think Naipaul's style works for his writing; I think I've posted here several times about his books, of which I am a great fan. A Way in the World is my favorite; and we did A Bend in the River on Classics Corner or CR several years ago. The only disappointment for me was the non-fiction A Turn Through the South. Naipaul gets criticized for being non-PC, given his background. And he isn't very PC, I think partly because it is his natural wont to be a bit contrary. I'm not quite done with this one, but there's a helluva lot going on. And I don't see Willie as passive at all; though he may not be overtly active in the way we've been taught to admire. Plus, didn't it just crack you up every so often? That first party at Willie's literary friend's house, for example? Theresa Given, they may have no more literary value than the graffiti in the Grand Central rest room, but I know I enjoy the hell out of them. Thom Hanser
From: Sherry Keller Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 06:27 AM That's a really interesting slant, Theresa. We are conditioned to look at things head-on in our culture, and we might not notice the unspoken indirect kind of manipulation that you saw. I hadn't thought of it, and it puts the whole book in a different light. But now it's two book behind me and some of the details of blurring, so I can't fully appreciate this new slant. Sherry
From: Barbara Moors Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 06:43 AM A whole new slant for me too, Theresa. Excellent points. It never occurred to me that the mother wanted that marriage. I had to read over your first paragraph two or three times before I realized that you actually meant Willie's mother! From a traditional westerner's point of view, she's a total victim. And, yes, there were some humorous points, dark, subtle humor. Are you in the African section yet? Barb
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 09:03 AM Theresa, Regarding your point about how the characters fade away before they are fully realized: I was struck by that also. Willy was traveling through his relationships like landscapes he passed on a train, each one presented as a deft psychological sketch. Not too long an involvement, but his (Willy’s and/or Naipaul’s) powers of observation are keen. I loved the sketch of the handicapped white woman in Africa with “mystical powers,” who used this perception of her with tyranny. In regards to another, more realized character: I loved the irony of Willy’s father being regarded as a wise and holy man when he was really just escaping conviction from his petty, passive aggressive bureaucratic crimes. It’s a slap against Somerset Maugham who uses Willy’s father as a model for spiritual enlightenment. In fact, Maugham doesn’t fare too well in Naipaul’s hands. I thought that was darkly humorous and a sly comment on how the English don’t get it about India. Contrarians may be a b!+(# to know but they often make great writers. I still think THE RAZOR’S EDGE is one of the best novels I have ever read. Robt
From: Mary Ellen Burns Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 01:02 PM Well, I finished this and it was a disappointment. I think I don't really love a book unless I am "hooked" by at least one of the characters, and as noted by lots of posts here, these are not attractive characters to many of us. Willy may have been observant (but apparently not observant enough ever to pick up on the mores of his social group so as to feel he was fitting in?) but I am in the "Willy was too passive" camp. Perhaps Naipaul is using him to illustrate, in an extreme way, the effects of dislocation. But I found him very, very annoying. I did enjoy some of the other character sketches -- the mystical woman was a hoot, and the 2 London guys who make their way through life by hooking up with one wealthy woman after another. As to Naipaul's style, although it doesn't hit me head-on, there's something to it. I didn't like the characters, I found the plot minimalist and sketchy, but it was not, for all that, a hard book for me to read. It flowed along like a quiet, sluggish little river and carried me along with it for its 211 pages. Mary Ellen
From: Dale Short Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 01:35 PM I got a kick out of your comments, Mary Ellen. Speaking of Willie's passivity, I'm wondering if it would be fair to classify him as passive-aggressive to some degree? I encounter many people who seem to get part of their self-esteem from mere obstinance, and this quality kicks into high gear when they're caught in unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable situations...which pretty much describes Willie's life. >>Dale in Ala.
From: Theresa Simpson Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 01:34 AM Re the comments re "victims"; I'd be willing to bet Naipaul has never written about a victim in his life, it's not in his nature. He's such a pragmatist of the psyche. And I didn't really see any of the characters in this book as victims either, not on a personal level. Just about all of them were victims on a social/cultural level. And it's those subtle comparisons of India/UK caste system; male/female manipulation and dominance; money vs. no money, and so forth, that really drive this book. What is amazing to me is that Naipaul was able to write this as a story rather than a polemic, sign of a good writer. I don't know that I especially liked any of the characters. But then I never feel the need to "like" any characters in a book; they just damn well better be interesting (a different thing altogether . . . ) Theresa Given, they may have no more literary value than the graffiti in the Grand Central rest room, but I know I enjoy the hell out of them. Thom Hanser
From: Mary Ellen Burns Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 01:19 PM Theresa -- I agree with you; characters (or at least some of them) don't have to be likable if they are interesting. We part ways, I guess, on our response to this set of characters. I did not really care what happened to any of them. Dale, thanks. I enjoyed this observation of yours: I encounter many people who seem to get part of their self-esteem from mere obstinance... I'd never thought of it that way before, but it is very true! I had not seen Willy as passive-aggressive, but it seems correct. (His dad, too, right?) I really lost all patience with Willy when he said to Ana regarding Graca, "I wish you could be in the room when we make love. Then you would understand." Of course, I lost patience with Ana, too, whose response to this was a bit too muted for my taste! I also thought it strange that Willy compared many of his sexual experiences with what he imagined his father's to be, long after he'd entered adulthood. I guess he figured if, by any measure, he was surpassing his father, he was doing ok? Mary Ellen
From: R Bavetta Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 01:38 PM The women in this book are pretty much ghosts. We're privy to none of their thoughts, backgrounds, rationales... Why are they hooked up with this guy? What made them choose him? Is it an authorial weakness or an authorial choice for this book? Has anyone read a VSN with fully developed women? I know I've read Bend in the River, but it's been eons and I don't even remember what it was about, let alone if it had any women in it. R
From: Dale Short Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 07:28 PM Theresa: I came across one review of Half A Life (can't remember where) that praised the novel highly, but the reviewer offered the slight caveat that long-time readers of Naipaul might be a bit dissatisfied because (in the reviewer's opinion) the book was a sort of distillation of themes and ideas that Naipaul had treated in greater detail in his earlier work. I'm curious whether (a) you'd agree with that statement, and (b) if there's a particular book by Naipaul you could recommend that shows a different side of the author than this one does? >>Dale in Ala.
From: Theresa Simpson Date: Thursday, January 22, 2004 01:25 AM I think the women are ghosts because it's Willie's story, and that is how they are to him. He states several times that in the culture in which he grew up, women and men could never really know each other, or things along those lines. Dale, I'd recommend A House for Mr. Biswas. It is a novel/tribute to Naipaul's father, who also had literary aspirations (unfulfilled, though I think he did publish a novel at some point.) Biswas takes place in the Caribbean, where Naipaul grew up. It reminds me of The Makioka Sisters in many ways - the story of a family, told with lots of sentiment but without sentimentality. And it differs from Naipaul's other work in much the same way that Makioka Sisters differs from Tanizaki's other work (Tanizaki could get pretty perverted when he wanted to . . . ). Theresa Given, they may have no more literary value than the graffiti in the Grand Central rest room, but I know I enjoy the hell out of them. Thom Hanser
From: Mark Thorn Date: Thursday, January 22, 2004 09:45 AM Good morning, team-- I don't have too much to add here, just yet. But I figured I'd chime in and say that I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm enjoying this book. Without at all trying to start an argument with the last post, I thought I'd mention that a few months ago I absolutely SLOGGED my way through A House for Mr. Biswas-- some 600 odd pages in my copy-- and detested every word of it. I kept thinking-- this guy won a Nobel, there's SOMETHING worthwhile that'll crop up. But it never happened. So having hated Biswas, I was prepared to not like Half a Life at all. Maybe it's because I'm wading through a lot of other very heavy authors right now (I ordered from Amazon every book ever written by Nabokov and Saramago, and they both take a lot of mental legwork), but the light easy style is a pleasant change. Either way, I started it at 8 or so last night and found myself halfway done before bed, so that was nice. Naipul got the Nobel in 2001; 2003's Nobel, Coetzee, also has a very sparse style, and perhaps this is the latest trend in the literary world. I also agree about looking for linguistic meat on the bone (which I think Coetzee offers much more of), but as I said-- I'm enjoying the style. (I haven't read the 2002 Nobel-- Imre Kertesz-- so I can't comment on his style. All of his books look BRACINGLY depressing, though, which is something I enjoy). And I haven't gotten to the Africa part yet, but yes, Portugal did have a colony in West Africa-- Mozambique. The capital, Maputo, is on the coast, there was indeed a huge and bloody civil war there in the 60s proceeding to independence in the 70s. As I said, I haven't to the Africa section, but from what I've read hear, he might very well be describing Mozambique. More from me once I finish the book. --Mark Thorn
From: Mark Thorn Date: Thursday, January 22, 2004 10:29 AM Sorry, got my east/west confused there. Mozambique is in the EAST of Africa (admittedly, in the south east). Sorry, Mark
From: Candy Minx Date: Thursday, January 22, 2004 02:22 PM Really enjoyed all the thoughts and posts here. Has really given me much to think about...especially those of you with the long thought out insights! Thanks! I am of the camp that not doing something is also doing something... Theresa your thoughts on this novel were very helpful to me and invigorating...
From: Theresa Simpson Date: Friday, January 23, 2004 01:04 AM Hi Mark, I don't think we've corresponded here before, so welcome to CR. Biswas is not my favorite Naipaul, but I think it is quite different from Half a Life, and might appeal to those here who did not enjoy this book. My favorite Naipaul is A Way in the World. If you liked Half a Life, I highly recommend World. It was interesting how each character in turn was misapprehended by another. Maughum did not have a clue what was really up with Willie's Dad-the-mystic; Willie's Dad didn't have a clue what was really up with that poor, simple Untouchable girl; Willie never did know what was up with his wife (name escapes me, I'm tired). The English didn't really get the Indians; Willie was mystified by the Brits; and the Africans appear to have remained strangers to him. I've reached the bit where he's visiting the dance halls - this has helped him know himself a bit more, or at least to discover that he likes sex, but he doesn't really have a clue about the Africans that go there, does he - even after the foreman promises to show him how the African's really live. All he really gets to see is how they live when in contact with the colonizers. Theresa Given, they may have no more literary value than the graffiti in the Grand Central rest room, but I know I enjoy the hell out of them. Thom Hanser
From: Barbara Moors Date: Saturday, January 24, 2004 04:35 PM At this point, my function on this thread has primarily been absorbing and learning from the insights of others. However, I wanted to especially thank Theresa for her insights. Naipaul gives a sense of layers under the surface that I didn't really comprehend during my reading. My major impression, initially, was of people who didn't feel that they belonged to any group and seemed constantly in a holding pattern or limbo. However, this whole lack of understanding of others issue is a major part of it too. Mark, welcome to the discussion. I'll be interested to see if you think that Mozambique was the model for the country in the African section. Barb
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Saturday, January 24, 2004 11:18 PM Thanks, Mark, about Mozambique. BTW, Teresa Heinz Kerry is from Mozambique. Robt

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