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Six essays, and the start of a book interrupted by his death in 1985, constitute this slight, acidic collection from the brother of V.S. Naipual, author of Love and Death in a Hot Country and Beyond the Dragon's Mouth. The shortest essay, ""My Brother and I,"" proves the most representative in its pithy formulation of the persistent, sometimes tortured struggle for self-definition that characterizes each piece included here. Frequently and often unfavorably compared to the more illustrous V.S. Naipaul finds it necessary to write: ""We are each our own man. . .In the end, it is the work that matters, not the relationship."" This insistence on his--and everyone's--birthright to carve their own way, regardless of the world's pigeonholings, extends, for Naipaul, to the cultural and racial as well as the familial, and sometimes leads to surprising stances. For example, in a trenchant essay, ""Flight into Blackness,"" he takes aborigines to task not for betraying their tribal heritage, but for allowing white Australians to cajole them into strict allegiance to that heritage rather than taking their place as fully integrated citizens of Australia. Or, in the scathing essay on ""The Illusion of the Third World,"" where he claims that ""a Third World does not exist as such. . .Human beings don't come conveniently packaged in oven-ready, Identikit format."" And, in the book's powerful coda--a visit to Sri Lanka which begins his uncompleted book about Australia--where he details with sorrow and anguish the ancient tension between Tamils and Sinhalese, symbols for Naipaul of the hatred that arises when anyone's, or any people's, otherness isn't freely granted. Impeccably wrought and morally charged, these splendid essays give ample testament of Naipaul's generous and troubled humanism.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking