Once again exile and cultural dislocation, and the mess of independence, are the principal themes in V S Naipaul's early and acerbic commentary on the ironies and paradoxes of post-colonialism. This time, the narrator, Ralph Singh, an ex-colonial minister from a small Caribbean island, ensconced in London, writes his memoirs from a room in a suburban hotel. His writings rock back and forth between the present and the past in an attempt to explore the meaning of his childhood and the relationship with his family, his education, his brief marriage to a ridiculous white woman and above all his political career in Isabella, the island of his youth, during its formative post-independent years. All the criticisms are here that he has made of his own native Trinidad: the ideological bankruptcy, greed and stupidity of the new post-colonial elite resulting from an inferiority complex in relation to their colonial masters, the abandonment of traditional cultures and values perceived as inherently inferior, and a desire by both communities (African and South Asian) to imitate, to mimic, the behaviour and mores of their white ex-rulers. The result is an ill-disciplined and poorly governed country, with the familiar racial and social tensions that are characteristic of that region and of Naipaul's novels, a place without social cohesion or any meaningful sense of direction. The chaos of Singh's own mean-spirited and selfish life is mapped over that of his unruly country to give a dispiriting pessimism about the future of nations seeking a fresh start after the demise of colonialism. But then this was written in 1967 - and by V S Naipaul.