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3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  762 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
A novel of colonialism and revolution, death, sexual violence and political and spiritual impotence.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published September 12th 1990 by Vintage Books USA (first published January 1st 1975)
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New York Public Library Books of the Century pt 1
88th out of 101 books — 6 voters
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The Caribbean 101
318th out of 413 books — 82 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,487)
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Nov 08, 2010 Shane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A revolution in a small Caribbean island exposes deviant sexuality, and gender and racial hatred among its principal characters. They truly are lost souls without hope of redemption.

Jimmy Ahmed is the unlikely bi-sexual, mixed-breed revolutionary, who hates England for having made him into a plaything and who hides out in a foreign-sponsored farm on his native island waiting for the moment to spring his revolution. My problem with Jimmy is that he does not appear to have charisma that will inspi
Aug 28, 2011 Cbj rated it it was amazing
Guerillas is a vicious self-help novel for wounded colonized people and their guilty colonizers. No, but thats not really true. Naipaul is not interested in the emancipation of humanity and is only interested in serving literature. He said so himself.

Guerillas is a terrifying novel about race relations written with the sole intention of exposing liberals for what Naipaul perceives to be their banality. But no, thats only partially true.

Guerillas is a brutally honest novel about the inevitable
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
I'm not sure how to put my feelings about this book into words, but I'll try. This is not a fun novel. This is not a nice novel. This is a vicerally powerful and profoundly disturbing novel. The tension begins to build with the very first word, and doesn't let up until the very last. Naipaul is a master of creating atmosphere. You physically feel the tension in the interplay between characters, and the hysteria bubbling away just below the surface makes your heart beat faster. This is not a nove ...more
May 16, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it
The last Naipaul I read, A House for Mr. Biswas, disappointed me, but this one has great force. It is a complex rumination on post-colonial life -- identity, race, power, sex, and politics.

Set in an unnamed Caribbean island based on Naipaul's own Trinidad, the island is independent and self-governing, but still dominated by the British colonial elite. The main characters are white liberals who find their politics and sentimentality overcome by events, particularly in their complex relationships
Jul 27, 2013 Andrewh rated it liked it
This is the first Naipaul book I have read and it was a bracing experience - not exactly enjoyable but compelling and thought-provoking (a cinematic analogy would be a Michael Haneke film perhaps, in whcih the reader is also complicit in the misdeeds being described). The book's general theme is the post-colonial era of revolutionary ferment in the Caribbean in the 70s, when political movements still harboured hopes of a radical transformation of society along leftist lines. The tone is overwhel ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Suggestion_noted rated it it was ok
Naipaul can really write, but his racism taints everything. Despite that, he created quite a compelling character in Jimmy Ahmed - he could be portrayed as just a monster, or ridiculous, but he ends up being more. Jane's character is not as shallowly drawn as it might initially seem, but it's hard to get a handle on her when the perspective keeps switching from her own to how she is perceived by Roche. Meredith could have been fleshed out more; he is clearly interesting but his motivations aren' ...more
Jan 27, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Minor point, but the father is much stronger than the son. Reading The Black House and Guerrillas near to each other, it's easy to see how Theroux models his approach on Naipaul. Their dislike of everyone, their formal realism (Black House's gothic content notwithstanding), their focus on the relationship of first and third world. But Theroux is pointless. He fails to transform his excellent atmospherics into art. He can write a page, but he cannot write a novel. In contrast, Naipaul's judgment ...more
Michael Vagnetti
One must look off searchingly in the distance with this fiction, through your own class, your own country, with eyes not exactly squinting, but with a presage of future pain from the inevitable fatigue. It is only words, it is not exactly words. To read is to create (the illusion?) of a physical memory in someone who has never been to the Caribbean island of Guerillas.

If meaning in fiction is an attempt to create somatic experiences for the reader, then technique is a way of creating empathy for
Jan 22, 2008 Mj! rated it it was ok
Death, sex, and revolution make up this book, though mostly it follows the stories of elitist white people selfishly mourning their miserably alienated lives. If you like reading the words "decay" and "desolation" over and over, enjoy!
Dec 08, 2014 Padraic rated it liked it
Not a big fan of Naipaul's fiction - his non-fiction strikes me as his real strength. On the other hand I tried putting this down three or four times without success - something always pulled me back. Atmosphere? Perhaps. Plot? Hardly (there is one, but that's all one can say about it). Applicability? Perhaps (I write this post-Ferguson). Maybe it's as simple as recognizing that he is deeply engaged with race, and all the raw emotions that simmer in that soup. There is a resolution - sort of - a ...more
Kobe Bryant
Jun 07, 2012 Kobe Bryant rated it really liked it
pretty good book, but not great. beautifully written but kind of boring. he really likes writing about vapid white women, because he's a big misogynist and a 'player'
Jul 08, 2016 Edward added it
Did a review of this book here:
Tanuj Solanki
You can see but you should not touch. That is the rule of the bush.
Aug 08, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
TWs for this book:Racism, racial slurs, sexual assault, rape, violence, misogyny
This book is so tense it's almost boring.
All of the characters are outsiders in a colonized country (which is to say has been and continues to be systemically ruined by white people who manipulate it's resources). There are a few people who are both original inhabitants of the island and also wealthy because of their complicity with the colonizers, this makes them outsiders among their own people and also a
Aug 04, 2008 Noel rated it really liked it
This book is a twisted tale of sex - the post british colony setting, the political struggle, these are just some of the decoys Naipual employs to shield the reader from the truth of what type of story they are really reading. When you uncoil what you have actually read, what is left lying around you is a perverted tale. There are power struggles in the post British colony setting, political ones, but these function in the book as nothing more than a vehicle to deliever the true story- the one o ...more
Patrick McCoy
Nov 06, 2011 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it
Guerrillas by V. S. Naipaul is a novel about an unnamed Caribbean country that undergoes a revolution. It seems like it would be Naipaul's home, Trinidad, but I don't know enough about the country to know for certain, but the Caribbean is full of little countries with large poor populations and natural resources controlled by the ruling elite or foreign investors, so there are several countries that could be models. Perhaps, the lack of detail on this point isa strength of the book. The politica ...more
Nov 12, 2015 Salvatore rated it liked it
The most disturbing book I've read in recent memory. The plot is fragmented. The characters are subtly (or not) horrible. Naipaul's thoughts on colonialism destroying both the colonists and the colonized is perhaps never more apparent. There's just a vitriol for everyone within that questions where the borders of racism and misogyny and thoughtlessness lie. It's bold and disgusting and insane and terrifying. And it's actually turned my stomach, not great to finish it at lunchtime...
David Freeland
Dec 02, 2009 David Freeland rated it really liked it
I just finished this today. In terms of its ability to build tension, fill readers with a sense of dread - the sense that something horrible is about to happen - Guerillas may be one of the finest novels I've read. Naipaul's writing is beautifully descriptive: from the opening chapter we are solidly within this world, so brilliantly is it depicted. Where I think Naipaul goes wrong is in the characterizations - much of which I think he gets right. However, if we are fully to believe the penultima ...more
Jun 15, 2014 António rated it really liked it
I liked the approach of this book. It's a style very introspective, which – combined with an utmost care to detail – allows the mood to be captured expertly. The characters' states of mind, their individual perceptions, as well as the study of their personalities are the catalysts of the story; a story that insinuates itself without falling into the trap of predictability.
Sep 09, 2012 Molly rated it really liked it
Weird book about an unnamed Caribbean island on the cusp of a revolution. I had big expectations for this one (Naipul won the Nobel prize for literature and all). Oddly, I enjoyed reading the book through to the end. When I was finished, though, I just wasn’t satisfied. The main female character, Jane, was a flat character–it was impossible to understand her personality or motivations. She really just drifted through the story. Jane seemed thrown in the book because the author wanted to include ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Andrew rated it liked it
Masterful prose and observation but Guerrillas can be tedious. The sharp critical eye that Naipaul has on these 1970s revolutionaries can seem dated, and worse, personal--borne of some grudge.

The sudden, violent end is weak compared to the book's promising beginning.

Guerrillas is still worthwhile. It remains an intelligent and serious novel that demands much of the reader, but it gives much in return.
Sarah Nicole
Sep 23, 2008 Sarah Nicole rated it did not like it
This book is terrible. I really believe this author does not understand women at all, because the way he writes the female character Jane is awful, both in quality of writing and in terms of believability. She is completely unrealistic and I think he uses the word "schoolgirl" twice in every paragraph that describes her (bad writing!). This book is supposed to be based on Wuthering Heights, but I shudder to even think about comparing the two. Wuthering Heights is a brilliant, amazing, stimulatin ...more
A very sour book that left an ill taste in my mouth, but it does have some qualities that make it worth reading. The novel is about three characters who find themselves on a Caribbean Island in the midst of social and political collapse. I enjoyed the novel initially because of the interesting description on the Island surroundings, and the skillful evocation of a sense of dread. But ultimately the characters seemed more like metaphorical types than previous Naipaul novels I have read, and the a ...more
Jun 23, 2014 Jennifer rated it did not like it
Nauseatingly misogynist, full of paper characters who illustrate various ideological points and extremely dull...this was awful, not in the same world as the author's non fiction .
May 27, 2008 Wizzard rated it liked it
This was a disturbing book, which is a powerful statement. It describes a third world scene wrought by violence and hopelessness. I am stuck deciding whether the characters are stock figures: Jimmy Ahmed the nihlistic and opportunistic ghetto warrior turned revolutionary, Roche, the do-gooder liberal who has common traits with the slave master, Jane, the liberal floating for a cause. It probably was different to read the book in the 1970's as opposed to now. I like the character of the Black pol ...more
Robert Wechsler
Jul 01, 2015 Robert Wechsler rated it liked it
Shelves: carib-lit
Not one of his best. Its politics are too barely presented. Didn't fully work, but still good writing that kept me in till the end.
Nicolas Garcia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 23, 2007 za rated it it was amazing
guerillas is an incredible work. it is dark, sharp, graphic, emotionally honest. naipaul captures the violent mind forged out of colonialism and his characters are people who can only relate to one another through the framework of power struggle, racism, self-hatred. towards the end of the book, there is a really graphic rape scene that i had so much trouble getting through. i believe it was made that much harder to take precisely because of all the underlying political context. this is a brilli ...more
Sep 10, 2009 Veterini rated it liked it
Livre franchement sinistre, qui explore le coté sombre de l'être ’humain. Cela donne des portraits intéressants, notamment un ancien militant anti-apartheid qui se retrouve par la force des choses au service d’une entreprise exploitant les richesses d’une petite île. Mais on est souvent à la limite de la complaisance avec par exemple la description des fantasmes de domination sur les femmes d’un homo refoulé.

Difficile de prendre plaisir à lire ce livre, on est même plutôt proche du dégoût. Cela
Oct 11, 2015 Fiona rated it liked it
This never really grabbed me although it was certainly interesting
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Dull and Pointless 1 3 Apr 29, 2014 04:29AM  
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi
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