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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank Account of Unpleasant Side of India - Helpful
This is the first of three books Naipaul has written about India - this one covers his first trip in 1962. I felt it was very helpful in letting me come to terms with the less pleasing side of India that I encountered in the course of several fascinating (and often wonderful) trips there - the side of India proverbial with poverty, dirt, corruption and inefficiency, that...
Published on 18 Aug. 2002

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3.0 out of 5 stars Coud be in a better condition but it was not too bad
Coud be in a better condition but it was not too bad
Published 2 months ago by teresa


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank Account of Unpleasant Side of India - Helpful, 18 Aug. 2002
By A Customer
This is the first of three books Naipaul has written about India - this one covers his first trip in 1962. I felt it was very helpful in letting me come to terms with the less pleasing side of India that I encountered in the course of several fascinating (and often wonderful) trips there - the side of India proverbial with poverty, dirt, corruption and inefficiency, that is tragically a part of any visitor's journey there but tends in some guide books or travelogues to be pushed aside or down played. Perhaps it takes an (ethnic) Indian like Naipaul to be fearless about tackling this. His description of Kashmir was especially memorable. If you like this book, try his other two India books, describing later trips: *A Wounded Civilization* and *India*. While these books will not cater to Western daydreams of a "spiritual" India, they will help the detached reader understand a more complete India, and one without the spin-doctoring.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars still vivid after 50 years, 17 Aug. 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: An Area of Darkness: His Discovery of India (Paperback)
I picked this up out of curiosity and was astonished at the vividness of writing and perceptions. Normally, a travel book this old is simply too dated to be of relevance. Instead, in this book we are treated to a deep meditation on the country with Naipal's novelist's eye and his persepctive as one of the first great writers from the Third World. Indeed, if you know India, this is a travel book that predates touristic India, and so is an entry into history.

But there are so many images that stick in the mind, flashes of humor and melancholy. I will always remember the pilgrimage he went on to see the "miracle" of an ice formation that appeared every year in the shape of a hindu god, though not in that year; the troubled American girl, Larene, who married a local musician in a moment of passion and was now attempting to ditch him; and the retreat in Cashmere, where Naipal got an incompetent cook fired in a fit of rage that he later regretted.

Get it. One of the best travel books I ever read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outspoken analytical portrait, 3 Feb. 2012
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Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An Area of Darkness: His Discovery of India (Paperback)
When V.S. Naipaul returned in the early 1960s to the country of his ancestors, India, he was brutally confronted with a paralyzing caste system, abject poverty, disastrous hygiene and sanitation, endemic corruption and absurd religious fervor.

The caste system
V.S. Naipaul illustrates profusely what a caste system really is. A caste is not a class, because a class system is a system of rewards. `Caste imprisons a man in his function. From this it follows, since there are no rewards, that duties and responsibilities become irrelevant to position.'
Caste also implies a brutal division of `labor' with at its centre the degradation of the latrine-cleaner. The main aim of the sweeper, however, is not to clean, but `to be' dirt.
By divorcing function from social obligation, caste becomes inefficient and destructive. Physical efforts (labor) are seen as degradation and have to be avoided. Caste lies at the heart of the Indian passion for symbolic actions: planting trees, but leaving the trees alone afterwards.

Poverty, the British
Poverty is not felt as an urge to anger or improving action, but as an exhaustible source of tears.
For V.S. Naipaul, India was (is still?) the world's greatest slum, with Kolkata as its nadir: filth, overpopulation and tainted money. It stands as an example of the total Indian tragedy and the terrible British failure. The British expressed their contempt for it and escaped back to England.

Religion
The religious doctrine was not as important as the forms it had bred. Religions was a spectacle (flagellations, ten thousand simultaneous prostrations), `a mixture of the gay, the penitential, the hysterical and, importantly, the absurd.'
The pilgrimage to the Cave of Amarnath with its massive ice phallus showed that `the generative force alone remained potent.'

Has India fundamentally changed since this disastrous report? Was the treatment of a former `untouchable' Prime Minister a sign on the wall?

Our world today needs more V.S. Naipauls, who do not deny what they see and who have a keen eye for crucial political, social and economic issues and psychological impacts.
This impressive in depth travel report should be a model for all those who want to learn to see.
Not to be missed.

I also highly recommend the movies by the great Indian director Shyam BENEGAL.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Area of Darkness that Enlightened Me, 2 Jan. 2007
This review is from: An Area of Darkness (Paperback)
I first read this book when I was 12 years old (back in 1980) and it amazed me on how an author who is a x generation Indian like myself feels when he returns to the land of his forefathers.

I vividly remember the first chapters regarding VS Naipaul's attempt to recuperate a bottle of liquor (Metaxas) amidst one of the worst things that India inherited from the British: -i.e their bureaucracy.

His description of Kashmir, wow ...transports you there and reminds us of a place bereft of the strife which we know of today especially thanks to those fundamentalists.

Brilliant Book...the first author who got me interested in reading serious stuff
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3.0 out of 5 stars Coud be in a better condition but it was not too bad, 5 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: An Area of Darkness (Paperback)
Coud be in a better condition but it was not too bad
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An Area of Darkness: His Discovery of India
An Area of Darkness: His Discovery of India by V. S. Naipaul (Paperback - 3 Sept. 2010)
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