28 November 2007

naipaul's half a life

Finally, I finished the book. It has been on my bedside table since June and waited too long to be read. V.S. Naipaul was born of Indian ancestry and just like other Indian writers of note including Arundhati Roy, he portrays wretchedness, you wonder if life is really that bitter and angst-ridden. Naipaul and Roy write of emotions that are in extremes - one moment a shade of gray, the next moment the bursting colour of a ripe mango. That is the reason, I would not touch the book for a long time, I fear what is written - too much a burden for me - self-torture I'll call it - because I know they never write happy endings.

The book centers on Willie Chandran, half-bred, son of a brahmin and of an untouchable. He lived a depressingly marginal life in India (author wrote that he is not 'exact about the countries, periods or situations'), then in England where he led a bohemian lifestyle. Towards the end of the story, Willie had lived for eighteen years in a country that was a mixture of Portugal and South Africa - I would never know the exact country because of the vagueness.

The character of Willie Chandran is so mystifying because he has this 'I don't care' attitude and seemingly immunity to pain that allows him to go on and on to search for life's generosity. He naively thinks that he soon will settle a full life by associating himself with friends who incidentally will fail his expectations. He finds love and passion in cruel ways and he also will willingly hurt Ana (who held a promise of fullness) and escape to let go of all the half-lives.

I have not read any review of this book. Maybe, I will, then I might know whether I am not alone in this perception of Willie Somerset Chandran.

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