Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 272
Vassanji's novel is an account of Kenya’s colonial past and its post-colonial present. The story spans over five decades and two continents. The protagonist and narrator, Vikram Lall is a Kenyan-born Indian, who now lives in Canada in hiding.
The colonial British government ships Vikram's grandfather along with thousands of laborers from India to Kenya, to work on the railways. His grandfather decides to make the beautiful country his home. However, the status of Vikram's family is enigmatic and "in-between" as he is neither African, like Njoroge, nor British, like Annie and Bill.
The political scenario changes as the Mau Mau uprising against the colonial government gains momentum. Bill, Annie, and their parents are brutally murdered. Vikram's uncle, who turns out to be a Marxist revolutionary, is deported back to India by the new African leaders. Njoroge's idealism leads to his assassination.
To ensure his personal safety and political survival, Vikram refuses to take sides. He assumes an "in-between" role. In independent Kenya, Vikram becomes a middleman and a fixer. He compromises on his morals and ethics and is out to get whatever he can. He surrenders to the political whims of the day. As the new African elite become more like its colonial predecessors, the political scene changes again. Vikram is forced to flee from an independent country ruled by nepotistic politicians. Lost and alone in Canada, Vikram is neither an Indian, nor an African, nor a Canadian. He is neither innocent nor guilty. He is neither a victim nor an oppressor. He is suspended between multiple worlds and identities.
Vassanji’s novel helps us understand the futility of revolutions.
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