Half A Life
(V S Naipaul)
The author has won a nobel prize for this book. It traces the life and experiences of an Indian who is born to parents of inter caste marriage. It is very relevant at this time as there is a lot going on in our country (India) regarding reservation for the backward classes. Beginning in the Gandhian era,the protoganist's father(a brahman by birth) marries a backward class woman not out of love for her but to prove that he is a Gandhian following the principle of sacrifice. He is under the impression that everything brahmanical is oppressive and everything of the backward is oppressed. As a result the protoganist (Willie Chandra) grows up to be a person who is confused about his family background, his parents' personalities,his country,religion etc. and eventually manages to get himself admiited to a school in London to escape all this.
Life is not all wonderful there as he is ashamed of his ignorance of world topics, relationships and is guided by a friend who shows him the pleasures of the youth. The writer's streak in him is harnessed by a publisher friend and he does well for himself by writing for the BBC and manages to get an unnoticeable book published. His work wins him a solo fan, a girl from Africa whom he marries for he has nowhere else to go after finishing college in London. For eighteen years he lives with her depending on her, managing her estate and in the end comfortably betraying her loyalty for other vigorous african women.
Suffocated by his existence and routine he decides to take leave of her and return to his sister whom he never loved nor respected in his entire life because she looked every bit like his mother, a backward. But now he feels he needs her comfort and company.
The intention of the author is not clear. Does he want to say that persons born of mixed culture are often confused or that man has always depended on women for his needs or that people never live their lives completely---they always live someone else's life till they realise it and are tormented by the thought to break free. All these emotions, confusions and realisations penned in an interesting narrative creates an unputdownable novel.
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