In a Free State
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In a Free State

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  1,671 ratings  ·  97 reviews
No writer has rendered our boundariless, post-colonial world more acutely or prophetically than V. S. Naipaul, or given its upheavals such a hauntingly human face. A perfect case in point is this riveting novel, a masterful and stylishly rendered narrative of emigration, dislocation, and dread, accompanied by four supporting narratives.

In the beginning it is just a car tr...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 12th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1971)
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Alejandro Teruel
I must confess that I do not not enjoy reading V.S. Naipaul. I find his fiction overly pessimistic and bitter, his characters unappealing, passive victims whose lives seem exercises in futility. In a sense, like Joseph Conrad, he explores the backwaters of colonialism (or post-colonialism in Naipual´s case), but whereas most of Conrad´s main characters have a spark of courage, or decency or some positive human value, Naipaul´s alienated and displaced characters find it difficult to even sustain...more
Paul
There are three novellas with a very short piece at the beginning and end. The focus is on being in a foreign/strange land. The longest novella deals with Africa at the end of empire; two white colonials travelling across an African state (possibly Uganda) at a time of change. It highlights their fears, prejudices and feelings about the future. There is a strong sense of threat (real or imagined; you decide) as they travel and a sense of something ending. The story about an Indian in Wshington D...more
Lady Jane
This is one of Naipaul’s most successful works. It is an eclectic compilation of narratives written in the minimalist style that is characteristic of Anglophone literature. The minimalism of its style, however, does not make it any less deep. The tales in this book are based on the lives of characters who are somehow pitifully depicted as slaves to their socioeconomic conditions, which is a sad and common reality to the human experience, and now it can be related to the many people who are alleg...more
Zanna
I probably ought to re-read this as I don't think I had enough knowledge to understand it at the time I first read. I only remember the first story, One Out of Many which has made an indelible impression on me. Naipaul is masterful in telling the incisive tale of servitude transported, giving each character due measure of inherent decency, self-interest and flawed humanity. The uncomfortable meeting of worlds is all the more resonant because stories from the point of view of servants are so unus...more
Fahad
في بلاد حرة

المرة الأولى التي اقرأ فيها لنايبول الحاصل على نوبل الآداب سنة 2001 م، ورغم أن كتابه هذا حصل على البوكر سنة 1971 م، إلا أنه لم يستهوني كثيراً، والكتاب ليس رواية، بقدر ما هو قصة طويلة وأربع قصص قصيرة، تنتظمها كلها مجموعة من الموضوعات، تتراوح ما بين الغربة والهوية والعنف.

ففي إحدى القصص نتابع حياة مستخدم هندي، يذهب مع سيده إلى أمريكا، حيث نرصد تعامله مع الحياة هناك، وهروبه للعمل في مطعم، وفي أخرى قصة أخ هندي وكفاحه لتعليم أخيه الأصغر، وفي ثالثة نتابع رحلة يقوم به رجل وامرأة بريطانيان ف...more
Jamie
I think this is one that will stay with me for a long time.
I tried to write an actual review, but I'm struggling to put how I feel afterwards into words.
I would, however, recommend this to absolutely anybody. There is wisdom and compassion and rage and a sense of lucid detachment that make the book very difficult reading, but make you think very deeply and clearly.
I think great literature should transport you to a time and place and you should come away having lived an experience, and in this y...more
randy
Facts are facts: Naipaul's prose is extraordinarily exquisite. I caught myself thinking a few times while reading this that reading this is better than being high.

That is some amazing power of prose right there.

Before I picked this up (on the merit of it being a big influence on Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss) I knew next to nothing about Naipaul aside that he was considered a great writer. Now, he is on my must read list & went out and got my second book from him today.

But this novel is...more
Courtney H.
In A Free State is a collection of two short stories and a novella, with two even shorter stories bookending them. Though each story takes place on a different continent (North America, Europe, and Africa) and have vastly different facts, they are tied together by themes of displacement and dependency; each tells the stories of the relationships that are formed and which sustain and ruin the characters in their immigrated-to homes, during eras that were as filled with upheavals as were the indiv...more
Ben Batchelder
This is a bleak book from a very good author. I first started reading Naipaul while hitching around the world in the 1980's, especially when in the Middle East and India. “In a Free State” covers slightly less exotic territory. A low-caste Indian skips his mat-in-the-closet existence with his master in a DC apartment, gets a cooking job, marries for a green card, and finds little contentment. A West Indian brother falls into criminal insanity in plush England. An English odd-couple on a long dri...more
Avital
Somewhat numbing. I liked two stories, one about an Indian servant who leaves India with his employer. The other about an Indian who wants to give his brother better opportunities, and leaves India after him. Everybody fails miserably or feels he does.
I wished both stories went on-I could read a whole novel about each. They are about foreignness, loneliness, prejudice, as are the other two lesser stories (well, more of testimonies of brutality) and as is the novella.

The novella is disturbing in...more
Geraldine
The first 2 stories were quite readable, but the third one entitled "In a Free State" was a real chore to read. The 2 characters Bobby and Linda were obscure, unlikeable and boring. It all seemed very disjointed. Maybe a metaphor for the country and the nature of being in a" free state " of mind and body,when ruled by colonialists, but it did not work for me.
Preferred " Troubles" as a book about a colonial power. Both Booker prize winners, in 1970 and 1971, so colonialism must have been importa...more
Sally Flint
I loved this story about displacement. Unfortunately I have the edition where it is only this central tale and not the ones that Naipaul wrote alongside it. Originally he had insisted on a series of stories with this as a main central one, but then he changed his mind and decided to just have this one in a recent edition. In the intro he writes about how he was quite depressed when he wrote the story and it does show. His portrayal of everything in the book, relationships, politics, place is all...more
Ahmar
Aug 12, 2010 Ahmar rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ahmar by: Adrienne
Not as good as A Bend in the River, but a great short read. Enjoyed the colonial caricatures. The stereotypes, the contradictions, the finding-oneself-in-a-foreign-land. Good stuff.
Amy
I just didn't get this book. I liked the first story but the second story I just didn't get. And, I haven't finished the last story though I keep trying.
Hayley
Good read. Naipaul is kind of a an annoying person though.
Erin
Oh, how I miss Tolstoy - and I never did like Conrad.
globulon
Recommended by my mom who thought it was great. The 3 stars is really provisional here. I feel I need to think about the stories more. I started reading the book a second time right after finishing it so I could maybe get a better grasp. I also read the reviews here and some other places on the web.

The prologue: I really liked this part. I felt Naipaul did a great job giving the feel of the place and the dynamics among the people. I felt I could relate to the tramp, as well as to the viewpoint o...more
Sahasranaman M S
The story, set in an African country that has just attained independence from colonial rule, is about two British expats driving down from the capital, which is in the north of the country, to the collectorate compound in the south.

The two people have come and found their freedom in Africa. Although they would like to think that they are more advanced than their ancestors and are against racism and discrimination, there are several instances during the two-day drive to the collectorate, where t...more
James
The central novella, reads as a Cold War Heart of Darkness. It's the sexiest book I've ever read. The "free state" itself is a fictional artifact, but is clearly inspired by Idi Amin's Uganda. The protagonist is a mentally unstable, homosexual foreign-services worker who has to drive from the capital to the center of the country where he and an ambassador's wife will be able to find shelter on the grounds of the British embassy.
Naipaul presents central Africa as an unfathomable conflation of p...more
Anuvab Banerjee
The book is three fold, consisting of two independent narratives as well as the main novella, along with a prologue and an epilogue. While both the prologue and the epilogue have the author as the narrator, the two narratives are through the eyes of displaced colonials, an Indian servant in Washington and a West Indian living in London. Santosh, the Indian servant in Washington, grapples with his new found freedom as he flees from his master and gets a job as a cook in an Indian restaurant, only...more
Bucket
I was very impressed with each piece in this book and the effort that builds throughout the book towards showing the terrible ineffectiveness of the way independence was handled by Europeans and Americans in Africa and India after so many years of colonization. Each story gives a chilling sense that newfound freedom for a country or even an individual isn't really as free as it might seem. The people of color in each story struggle with prejudice, and face difficulties and consequences that are...more
Dhruv Goel
I picked up this book at a time when I wanted to explore the colonial days. Done a little with the 'Sea of Poppies', now I wanted to read something on Africa. The mark of being Booker prize winner and by a Nobel laureate author attracted me towards it, but this too was against my expectations, which were developed by reading the books like 'Midnight's Children' and 'God of Small Things', mind I am not an experienced reader and hence tends to make an early expectations. But the important point is...more
Eric Bruen
5 stars for each of the first 2 stories - wonderful, touching and tragic.
The third and main story - very slow and very unsympathetic characters. It took way too long for anything to happen. A false promising start, I thought it was going to be gritty, sexy, heart-breaking, but no, it turned into an eternal road trip of 2 miserable expats bitching at each other. Plenty of foreboding moments that got me all too excited that this pair were about to get the hidings they deserved. But nothing happen...more
Alex Rendall
V.S. Naipaul has a reputation for courting controversy. Born in Trinidad in 1932, he is the first of the authors on this list who is still living; he has been involved in bitter disputes with authorial rivals and has attracted criticism for his recent comments regarding female writers. He has been described as being the “greatest living writer of English prose”, yet it is difficult to grasp an understanding of the authorial motivations that lie beneath the regular critical swipes against members...more
Katy
I enjoyed the short stories much better than the longer "In A Free State." I never really understood Bobby and Linda... there were moments that were hilarious, moments that were scary, and a lot of things that I really just didn't get. I think i need to think of this one more. Booker Prize winner #4 is finished!

Book Club Discussion (posted 1/8/12):

The Goodreads description of this book of course focuses on the major narrative of this novel, In A Free State. Honestly, this was not my favorite nar...more
Scott
Extremely well-written, as I would expect from a Nobel Literature laureate, but also quite disjointed. The structure is unusual in that it's not really a "novel" in the traditional sense. Instead, it's a combination of five different pieces, a first-person account of a boat trip to Egypt, a short story about an Indian immigrant to Washington, DC, another short story about West Indian brothers who emigrate to the U.K., the title novella about a two-day trip by automobile by two Westerners (a gay,...more
Tonymess
“we all want to be free from something or free to do something. But when you get that particular freedom, whatever it is, do you not find something else that bothers you? When the headache is gone, do we not notice the backache? When the backache is gone, do we not notice that we are irritated at something or someone? We long for freedom, but our small freedoms do not last long! Our natural human angst – restlessness, agitation, discontent, or whatever we label it – kicks in to move us on to loo...more
Farhan Khan
Terry Eagleton proclaims, “Reading fiction can derive you mad. In fact it is not fiction which leads to madness but forgetting the fictionality of fiction….A fiction which knows itself to be a fiction is perfectly sane “. Such is the booker prize winning novel, In A Free State by Nobel Laureate, V.S.Naipaul that will certainly lead its reader to forgetting the fictionality of fiction and will jostle the reader Into A Free State where the reader will meet ‘fields, fences, a dirt cross-road with a...more
James
Nominally a novel, but actually more like a collection of short stories, In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul is in this way different than other works of Naipaul that I have read. But in other ways it is similar and as a result it is as good as the others I have read. This is because all the five stories are linked thematically and they share Naipaul's beautiful prose style.
In a Free State includes stories that are all about people who find themselves in places where they feel, or are made to feel,...more
Ramsey
The title novella in this collection is a postcolonial tour de force set in an unnamed African nation. No writer better captures the dark currents of the postcolonial world than Naipaul—the Ozymandian landscape with its decaying relics of colonial grandeur and post-independence development projects left to rot; the deeply flawed Western hangers on, be they racist former settlers stoically waiting to be murdered or bureaucratic do-gooders who fail to grasp their place in the new order; the devast...more
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Indian Readers: In a Free State: V. S. Naipaul 2 18 Jun 19, 2012 03:10AM  
  • Saville
  • Something to Answer For
  • Holiday
  • The Elected Member
  • The Conservationist
  • G.
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • The Old Devils
  • Staying On
  • Offshore
  • The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2)
  • Heat and Dust
  • How Late It Was, How Late
  • Moon Tiger
  • Life and Times of Michael K
  • The Famished Road
  • Sacred Hunger
  • Last Orders
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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...more
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