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The Masque of Africa
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V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He went to England on a scholarship in 1950. After four years at University College, Oxford, he began to write, and since then has followed no other profession. He has published more than twenty books of fiction and non-fiction, including Half a Life, A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the River and most recently The Masque of Africa, and a collection of letters, Between a Father and Son. In 2001 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

About the Author

V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He went to England on a scholarship in 1950. After four years at University College, Oxford, he began to write, and since then has followed no other profession. He has published more than twenty books of fiction and non-fiction, including Half a Life, A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the River and most recently The Masque of Africa, and a collection of letters, Between a Father and Son. In 2001 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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In this elegiac spiritual return to a landscape he once inhabited in 1966, Nobel Prize-winning author Naipaul (A Writer's People) spirals outward from the central African country of Uganda, to Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Gabon, and concluding in South Africa, to unearth in six chapters a sense of African ancestral belief and practice. What he finds, in many cases, is a land of cruelty and depletion. In Kampala, Uganda, where he once was a writer-in-residence, Naipaul tours the 19th-century tombs of Kasubi, burial site of royal Buganda (tribal) leaders called kabaki, who were fierce and ruthless and provided a model for the later bloodthirsty dictators Idi Amin and Obote. Traditional African beliefs have no doctrine or script, and have been gradually superseded by foreign religions such as Christianity and Islam. Naipaul encounters many people who are torn in their religious choices, though they still hang on to the traditional pagan beliefs out of fear and awe. In turn he visits a Yoruban soothsayer; an Ashanti citadel in Kumasi, Ghana; the primeval forest of Gabon, now endangered by deforestation, which lends the pygmies and others their age-old spiritual philosophy. Ever fair-minded, soberly reflective, and conciliatory, Naipaul offers his sage observations in the hope that by learning more, we accept greater. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

In his engrossing new work of nonfiction, Nobel Prize winner Naipaul (A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling) recounts his travels through six African countries and the religious and spiritual beliefs he encountered in each. The journey begins in 2008 with Naipaul's return to Uganda, where he had been a visiting professor in the 1960s. From there he takes us to Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and, finally, South Africa. In each country, Naipaul visits sacred places and talks with people-from cab drivers to witch doctors and diviners-about their beliefs and spiritual practices. Naipaul narrates the journey with finely wrought detail, transporting the reader to the landscapes and city scenes he describes. Naipaul is witty, and his writing can be quite charming and delicate. He is also disarmingly frank in his assessments, a quality often not found in discussions of belief. Verdict A sharply written and engrossing exploration of the effects of religious and spiritual belief on societies. Effective both as a vivid piece of travel writing and for its glimpses of belief in Africa. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/10; 50,000-copy first printing; four-city tour.]-Rachel Bridgewater, Reed Coll. Lib., Portland, OR Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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