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North of South: An African Journey (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

North of South: An African Journey (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Shiva Naipaul
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

In the 1970s Shiva Naipaul travelled to Africa, visiting Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia for several months. Through his experiences, the places he visited and his various encounters, he aimed to discover what 'liberation', 'revolution' and 'socialism' meant to the ordinary people. His journey of discovery is brilliantly documented in this intimate, comic and controversial portrayal of a continent on the brink of change.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1286 KB
  • Print Length: 339 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0671247425
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (26 Sep 1996)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00371V8VO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #379,132 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars North of South is really East... 12 Mar 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
... as in East Africa. The book is Shiva Naipaul's travel narrative, set in the late `70's, when he visited Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia for a couple of months. It was only 15 years or so since these countries gained independence from British rule. Zambia was once known as Northern Rhodesia; Tanzania was created by a mis-matched union, at least in terms of size, if not also culture, between Tanganyika (which had been a German colony until the end of WW I) and Zanzibar (a group of small islands off the coast); and Kenya, well, it had been known as Kenya, when it was a British colony, and underwent no transformation in name, or borders. With the independence of so many African colonies in the late `50's and early `60's, there were high hopes for the future; a better life for Africans once their colonial masters were shaken off. Naipual's account was one of the first that indicated that those hopes might not be warranted.

Shiva Naipaul, who died in 1985, was the younger brother of V.S. Naipaul, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. They were originally of Indian sub-continent origins, born and raised in Trinidad, in the Caribbean, when it was a British colony, and both went into the literary world of London. There is a considerable school of negative opinion about V.S. Naipaul's role in describing "third world countries"; in essence, that he is entitled to say things, due to his origins, that for "politically correct" reasons cannot be said by white men or women. That opinion has been summarized, on more than one occasion, with a pithy, three-word non-PC formulation, in the possessive: Naipaul is the white man's... Concerning V.S., I share some of those negative opinions; however, even though Shiva possesses a fair degree of V.S.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating personal journey through Africa 16 Oct 2001
By A Customer
Naipaul is immensely skillful in his interweaving of his own feelings and impression with those of the people he meets on his African travels. There are times when the narrative is allowed to linger on subjects which do not seem particularly relevant to the Africa he is exploring, but generally the book is a fine overview of the continent, its legacies, and the problems it faced at the time Naipaul was writing. Naipaul shows a special talent for grasping the dilemmas faced by both African nations and African peoples.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine classic 31 May 2013
By Nico
North of South is one of the finest travel books I've ever read. Shiva Naipaul embarks on a fascinating journey through East Africa in the 1970's observing the post colonial societies that have emerged in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Witty, sharp and evocative the book is superbly crafted. In particular Naipaul conveys the fears and concerns of the beleaguered south asian communities in these countries as they struggle to cope with the new rules of engagement that have emerged in post colonial Africa. It is a real shame that during his life Shiva Naipaul did not get the opportunity to do more travel writing as he does it so well. North of South is a true classic.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest, detailed look at Africa in the late 1970's 24 Oct 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Naipaul's trip to Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia in the late 1970's is recounted with a novelist's eye for amusing detail and a serious journalist's ability to discuss government policies and their social ramifications. It is rather difficult to find a book on Africa that is so informative, yet has no axe to grind. (Actually, the treatment of ethnic Indians in Africa is a small hatchet that Mr. Naipaul grinds occasionally.) It is a great book for those of us who like to know more about the world beyond the media glamor spots, without being told what to think about it.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars African Travelogue 16 Feb 2002
By Jeffrey Leach - Published on
I'm trying very hard to figure out how I can review this book without coming across as an ignorant, bubble-headed liberal or a rabid racist. Hmmm... I don't think it's going to happen. North of South, by the late Shiva Naipaul, is essentially a travelogue of a trip to parts of Africa in the 1970's, specifically Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Welded to the descriptions of people and scenery are sharp observations on class, racism, government and colonialism. Naipaul's eye misses nothing during his travel, and his anecdotes are both humorous and sad. It was interesting to see that this guy is the brother of V.S. Naipaul, who recently won a Nobel Prize for Literature. Anyway, this book is not going to be found on the syllabus of any black studies classes anytime soon.
North of South reveals Africa in all of its glory: degenerate, corrupt and lazy. What really stands out is how Africans have taken Western ideas and applied them to their own situations, often with laughable results. Take the case of Tanzanian Socialism. Naipaul can barely contain a chuckle at the absurdity of this situation. Almost everyone he meets praises the administration, but almost no one has any true sense of what it's all about (to be fair, the same could be said for most nations). The corruption is truly astonishing. Bribery abounds everywhere, especially at border crossings, where tourists are routinely harassed and threatened with imprisonment if their papers aren't in order. A story in which Naipaul is conned when he gets a shoeshine is a good example. Not only does the guy ruin his shoes, he tries to overcharge him in the process. Naipaul constantly has to shell out the bucks to get even the most basic services, if he gets them at all. Hotels are run down traps, prostitution is epidemic, and beggars and the unemployed are everywhere. The few situations where something actually works are attributed to the presence of white expatriates, and even here there is the danger that the black government will step in at any minute and expel the whites.
Probably the most bothersome aspect of this book, and one that costs Naipaul a star in my review, is the bias Naipaul shows in regards to the "Asian" population in Africa. The "Asians" are actually of Indian descent, as is Naipaul. Naipaul reveals that Africans are prejudiced against these Indians and he seems to take it personally (what a surprise! Blacks can actually be racists!). Much time is spent on this problem and it opens Naipaul up to charges of retaliatory prejudice. Naipaul is much more effective when he shows how both blacks and whites have their racist attitudes, and how both races have been brought down together through the process of colonialism.
This is an obscure book that probably will never get much attention in the politically correct atmosphere of America. If you want to make a liberal's head explode, buy this book and tuck it into their stocking next Christmas. If you need a break from the multicultural crowd, this is the book for you.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic, funny account of the Way We Were .... 23 Dec 2004
By Wa Gatibu - Published on
North of South describes Shiva Naipaul's journey through Eastern Africa as it emerged from colonialism several decades ago. Optimism and energy prevailed alongside a blind faith in imported philosophies which pundits failed to translate meaningfully to the impoverished, illiterate masses around them.

Naipaul is a witty, bold writer with a gift for sharp imagery and an uncanny radar for subtle undercurrents in human interaction - the hypocrisy of the black elite, the jittery desperation of the settlers, the paranoid clannishness of the Asians. He also vividly portrays the deepening poverty and decaying infrastructure that underscored the failure of well-intentioned socialism in Tanzania.

While some racists may use it to justify their beliefs, the book is more a compassionate, humorous look at pre-industrial populations trying to forge national identities from scratch.

While today's poor countries may not have to follow the painstaking, centuries-long process that western countries did, this is still a reminder that there is no shortcut to institutional development.

For Africans, this nostalgic book shows how far we have come, but is also a challenge to craft a fresh vision for the long distance still left to travel.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Naipaul's glance at post-Colonial Africa 27 Aug 2005
By zonaras - Published on
Shiva Naipaul's _North of South: An African Journey_ is the most cynical book I've ever read. It is a travelogue of the author's visit to three postcolonial African countries in the 1970s: Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Naipaul is a Hindu, born in Trinidad, and he pays attention to the role (and plight) of South Asians (Hindus, Pakistanis, Sikhs, Parsees, etc) in East Africa. He also focuses on the black-white relations in Africa as well. Naipaul gives Africa and everyone involved in its affairs (whites, blacks and Asians) no credit whatsoever. Declining European colonial powers gave their African colonies political independence in the 1960s and a variety of demagogues like and Julius Nyerre in Tanzania who took power spouting third world varieties of socialism and Marxism. Despite claims of social and economic progress, Africa remains as backward as ever. Naipaul freely writes of his disgust with the countries and its deceived leadership from the first page of the book until the last. This book, like another reviewer noted below, certainly is not going to make it into a black studies program anytime soon. It is a relief from portraits of Africa that classify it as a tropical paradise, a land of innocents exploited by evil Europeans, or conversely an AIDS infested human disaster. Naipaul's cynicism shows Africa the way it really is-struggling, corrupt, deceived, but at the same time Afroca is chugging along optimistically in some areas, with idealism and occasional realism, and attempting to do as well as it can to develop itself. No dry textbook prose here; the book is short, easy to read, engaging and very well written.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly neglected and misunderstood masterpiece 12 Feb 2005
By Hassan R Akram - Published on
This is a wonderfully written book; Naipaul's proses flows effortlessly across the page, the connexion between thought and word is seemless. The comparatively small body of work Naipaul produced before his tragic early death has been neglected in favour of that of his less talented, but longer lived, brother (a Nobel Prizewinner). However in this one work, Naipaul's prosody surpasses anything produced either by his brother, or by other twentieth century travel writers like Thoreau. That said, some of the other reviews here are ludicrously jaundiced and do a disservice to the book itself. This is no crude work of 'anti-pc' nonsense (an American political term that the archly European Naipaul would have shuddered at). The prose is not illiberal (in the American sense of the term) but rather aristocratic, in the best tradition of Evelyn Waugh (the writer Naipaul most resembles). Like Waugh, Naipaul's caustic observations rip into the heart of human weakness and frailty, exposing the hypocrisy and cant from all sides. The pretensions of ghastly businessmen disgust him as much as the crudity of the black 'socialists'. Those who seek to defend either Marxism or any form of business enterprise system face Naipaul's perfectly expressed derision. I personally found Naipaul's lack of human feeling at the extent of Africa's poverty a little shocking but it is a rapturous pleasure to be so shocked.
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