Born in Trinidad to Indian immigrants, V. S. Naipaul moved to England when he received a scholarship at Oxford University. His essays, travel writing, and fiction portray mostly the people and the countries of the developing world and the legacy of colonialism in these cultures, thereby participating in the postcolonial tradition. In a Free State, Naipaul’s eleventh book, won the Booker Prize in 1971. In 2001, V. S. Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The committee praised Naipaul’s work for its representation of suppressed histories and events that speak on their own.
The protagonists of the various stories in In a Free State have one thing in common: They try to live in a new culture but fail to adapt. Their experience is marked by feelings of disappointment, loss, despair, and anonymity. In “One out of Many” and “Tell Me Who to Kill,” first-person narrators recount their failures, while the third-person narrative of “In a Free State” reinforces even more the alienation of the protagonists. The tone of Naipaul’s In a Free State bears pessimistic notes about humankind in general—a trait that appears for the first time in his fiction and continues in his later works Guerillas (1975) and A Bend in the River (1979).
The Indian cook in “One out of Many” never manages to find the freedom and happiness he came to search for in the West. Instead, he looks forward to...
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