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Guerillas, by V.S. Naipal More Images
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Guerillas, by V.S. Naipal

Rich with sullen anger and irony, in Naipaul’s novel, a Caribbean island’s fragile racial balance unravels when a slumming ex-journalist from London opts to relieve her boredom by making an ill-considered sexual conquest. The result is deadly and the desolate corrupt underbelly of the island’s simmering “Revolution” is revealed to be as afflicted by political ambition and personal vulnerability as the ruling white society that the guerrillas aim to destroy. In the end no one is a guerrilla because everyone is.

Jane is reckless, intrusive, unthinking, and provocative by habit. Not “loose,” but a loose cannon. Repulsed by the aging paramour with whom she currently resides, named Roche, who has long abandoned his celebrity status as an erstwhile imprisoned human rights activist for a life of anonymity and a steady paycheck, she fancies herself drawn to Jimmy Ahmed, the leader of the ostensibly non-violent wing of the island’s guerrillas. Jimmy has made his own compromises, however, calling himself “Haji” for example although he has never visited Mecca, and using his status and reputation to obtain sex in disreputable ways, and has already taken the same road as Roche, choosing comfort and bribes over challenging the status quo. Still he resents being regarded as a plaything and having his vulnerabilities displayed before him. The interplay results in personal tragedy and paralyzes the island.

Although topic and title are dated and show a preoccupation with trendy 70’s “liberation movements,” characterization and style show the deft work of an artist at home with his canvas and, as with all fine literature, are perennial in their appeal. A fine weave and text-book example of a writer focusing on that which he knows best. —SiriusReviews.com.

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