GUERRILLAS by V.S. Naipaul


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While colonials and nationalists go on fiddling and proselytizing, V. S. Naipaul illuminates lite millennium which is here. He brings an uncompromising intelligence to a unique perspective on the world at large, as it is seen by the multiracial, multicultural children of Empire who as a consequence of their mixed heritage, are political orphans in perpetual exile. Guerrillas, half dream and half news story, outlines the ugly cracks in the ideological jigsaw of a Caribbean island just next door to Naipaul's native Trinidad--a state where "everybody wants to fight his own little war, everybody is a guerrilla." The novel's central encounter parodies our collective racist sexual fantasy as seen in exploitation films like Mandingo (a chief form of entertainment in this outpost of Naipaulia) by deliberately hybridizing it with the romance of Wuthering Heights. Thrushcross Grange is the name that Chinese half-breed leader Jimmy Armed has given to his back-to-the-land revolutionary commune where in fact young boys are reamed rather than reformed; the latest object of his perverse, ultimately bloody affections is the spoiled mistress of his chief supporter among the establishment, a man deported from South Africa for his activism. Jimmy finds his justification in Cathy's portrait of Heathcliff: "Your mother was an Indian princess and your father was the Emperor of China, we knew it all along"; for he more than anyone longs for the days of privilege and splendor. When the brawling, hungry slum that comprises this tiny republic explodes in flames bringing a swarm of U.S. helicopters, pettiness and power-lust also erupt down the length of the island as slaves and masters change partners. No easy answers for Naipaul: just "hints of the failure and shoddiness to come" in a social novel that will define for generations to come the terms of the devolution of Mistah Kurz's property.
Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1975
ISBN: 0679731741
Page count: 275pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1975


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