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The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief

3.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  332 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Like all of V. S. Naipaul’s “travel” books, The Masque of Africa encompasses a much larger narrative and purpose: to judge the effects of belief (in indigenous animisms, the foreign religions of Christianity and Islam, the cults of leaders and mythical history) upon the progress of civilization.

From V. S. Naipaul: “For my travel books I travel on a theme. And the theme of
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Hardcover, First Edition, 256 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,034)
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William1
Feb 24, 2016 William1 rated it liked it
This one doesn't quite hold together. The title word "glimpses" suggests the narrative's overall sense of fragmentation. The book begins with the author's second visit to Uganda in the 1990s; he was originally there in 1966 as a visiting scholar at Makerere University where he met the young Paul Theroux (See Sir Vidia's Shadow). He returns now to conduct his enquiry into traditional African belief. He finds it diminished by monotheism, not surprisingly, but still existing, if mostly in the irrat ...more
Jonathan
Nov 02, 2010 Jonathan rated it it was ok
The slide continues. Naipaul's latest sees the grizzled Nobel Laureate on a jaunt through several sub-Saharan African countries to have a look at (or get "glimpses" into, as he more accurately puts it) traditional African spiritual beliefs, and how these have fared in the aftermath of colonialism and the coming of Christianity and Islam. A wonderfully Naipaulian theme; but he seems alarmingly lacking in the passion to truly explore it. He appears more concerned than ever for his personal well-be ...more
Rachel
Apr 17, 2011 Rachel rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, africa
I refuse to put this on my religion/philosophy shelf. This book, which is supposed to be about "African belief" is about an author who is less interested in exploring Africa than he is in his own comfort. He travels in class, sometimes with high-powered friends and even bodyguards at times, arranging to meet chiefs, who don't really tell him anything. He often goes to meetings and leaves before anything really important is discussed. He mentions over and over that you need to grease palms in Afr ...more
brian
Nov 04, 2010 brian rated it liked it
in the few years i worked at an outdoor magazine stand i was frequently struck by the seeming arbitrariness of british celebrities and socialites who'd grace the covers of UK tabloids -- they just didn't look or feel anything at all like 'real' movie stars. of course, for some poor sap in botswana, bahrain or burundi, i'd imagine toby maguire, steve carrel, jenna fischer, or sandra bullock don't seem possessed of tremendous amounts of star quality. similarly, naipaul's book of belief in 6 differ ...more
Dave
Dec 22, 2010 Dave rated it really liked it
This book is short, but dense and challenges readers from at least three backgrounds, including:

1. The Generic 'Religion as Binding Ritual' type

I always want to tear my hair out (but can't because I have none) when I hear people talk about traditional tribal religion as giving shape to communities, providing a pattern of life, and so on, and so lament its passing. Yes, it does do these things - but that is hardly what tribal religion (or any religion) is about. Make no mistake, many Africans rea
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Justin Evans
Nov 12, 2013 Justin Evans rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
This book, and its reviews on goodreads, taught me a couple of things. Most importantly, I realized how important a book's title can be. I picked this up at the Museum of African Art in D.C., where it was on super-sale. There were a number of fetish objects in the museum, which were much more powerful than most of the modern art around them. The curator's notes suggested that much of this was a response to the slave-trade (especially from Benin), which would have been so catastrophic for the peo ...more
Fred R
Feb 09, 2015 Fred R rated it really liked it
This is likely to be Naipaul's last original publication, and he is indeed a little slow, a little tired, and more than ever obsessed with his comfort and his finances. The book is also poorly edited. His perspective and style, however, remain, and I find them as attractive and original as ever.

Naipaul has always had a distaste for borrowed, imported, or imposed beliefs (Islam in India, Black Power in the British Empire, Christianity in Africa), so it's understandable that he would have some in
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Robert
Oct 12, 2014 Robert rated it liked it
The Masque of Africa by V. S. Naipaul is a travel book focused on a contemplation of African religions and beliefs. It begins in Uganda and continues on through Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Gabon, and South Africa.

As with all Naipaul’s books, this one achieves its authority with an understated but stately consistency and knack for the telling detail. He is a master stylist in that he maintains the same tone and pace regardless of what he’s writing about, and he is uncompromising in his reporting
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Jacqueline Smith
Jun 15, 2015 Jacqueline Smith rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Orlando Tosetto
Oct 16, 2013 Orlando Tosetto rated it really liked it
As crenças que interessam a Naipaul são as da África negra (islamismo ele conhece bem). O pouco que ele aprende e fala delas, porém, lhe serve para perceber que não há solução ou esperança à vista para um continente dominado pelo caos, pela rapina, pela violência e pela superpopulação. Dá tristeza de ler, mas é muito bom.
Marco Tamborrino
Apr 01, 2016 Marco Tamborrino rated it really liked it
Attento e interessante resoconto su alcune credenze africane. Emerge il tipico pessimismo di Naipaul riguardo la condizione attuale e il futuro dell'Africa.
Ruqaiya Said
May 10, 2011 Ruqaiya Said rated it really liked it
I had to re-read certain parts in this book to come to a complete understanding of what was being discussed. Despite being an avid reader , I generally do not read works of non-fiction. This book came as a recommendation from a colleague who swore (literally!) that it was an absolute page-turner. At first I was taken aback by the very theme this book revolves around, one that I usually refrain from discussing with people. To me, religious and or cultural beliefs are too personal of a matter to a ...more
Srivas
Jul 01, 2012 Srivas rated it liked it
This book attracted a fair bit of negative press upon publication for its prejudiced views of Africans - Robert Harris called it "toxic" for example. There IS some old-fashioned prejudice here - the critics weren't hallucinating - as for example when Naipaul speculates that a Ghanian he interviews might have acquired his analytical bent of mind from a Danish ancestor. It's an odd passage (the more so since just prior to this demeaning assessment the analytical man has been recounting a pretty cr ...more
Rick Skwiot
Nov 13, 2012 Rick Skwiot rated it it was ok
I was a sympathetic reader going in. I have read and admired V.S. Naipaul’s fiction and nonfiction for decades. I anticipated his newest tome, The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief, enough to pre-order it. But I came away disappointed not only in the book but in the Nobel Prize-winning author as well.

It was bad enough that Naipaul skims the surface here in his investigation of traditional African religion. He seemingly conducted no scholarly research (there is none cited or footnoted)
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Inert1
Oct 20, 2012 Inert1 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, nonfiction, nobel
A great series of travel essays. Naipaul visits Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and South Africa, trying to understand the practical implications of African belief, focusing primarily on traditional beliefs. While he adheres to his stated objective of avoiding political topics (except in the case of South Africa, which he acknowledges), he captures the human root sand consequences of beliefs and rituals. He does this not as an anthropologist, but most often as the acquaintance of a f ...more
Mike
Mar 29, 2015 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Zrobiłbym wszystko, żeby pojechać do Afryki i zobaczyć wszystkie magiczne rzeczy, któe mógł zobaczyć ten człowiek (biała syrena jedząca mięso! <3). On zrobił wszystko, żeby tego nie zobaczyć i jeszcze opisał to z wielką satysfakcją. Coś w tym jednak jest, że splendory rozleniwiają.
Jennifer
Dec 23, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
It's a conversational work of nonfiction, and it's interesting to learn that Naipaul is, after all, a good guy. His novels are so unsparing, patiicularly Magic Seeds, which I vow to read all the way through one day, that I had no idea he was so kind, patient, and interested. He writes about the religious practices, the ruin, and the glory of Africa as he found it in early this century, in a chatty way that took me right along with him. Its a casual book on his part, which means its still legions ...more
Jay Dee
Sep 28, 2014 Jay Dee rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure, travel, culture
The subject matter of this book is immensely interesting. It's about the varying beliefs, cultures & traditions of African communities, and also the effects of modernization in these secluded areas. I loved all the bits and pieces presented to us throughout the book.

The only problem I found with it was V.S. Naipaul.

NOTE TO THE AUTHOR: Yes Mr. Naipaul, I heard you the first time when you fretted about your budget... can you please shut up about your funds, Mr. Naipaul... why are you blaming
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Karan Gupta
Oct 01, 2015 Karan Gupta rated it liked it
It was in Manali, on my way back from an exhausting road trip. I had taken a break for a couple of days and, quite strangely, found myself without a book. So I went to the friendly neighbourhood bookstore near my hotel and started browsing the shelves. I had thought of picking up a book on Mahayana Buddhism but I failed to find any that offered an interesting back page teaser. The next best thing was a Murakami book which picked up with the intention to buy. But I had not yet scanned all the she ...more
John Crane
Aug 27, 2011 John Crane rated it it was ok
I have rarely read a book about Africa that was as "detached" as this one. Having spent quite a bit of time in Africa, sometimes I wondered where Naipaul actually was. The book seemed to be too much about him and not about the people that he claims to be writing about. Perhaps the Masque was being worn by Naipaul - and not by Africa....
Paula
Dec 24, 2011 Paula rated it it was ok
Disappointing. Naipaul travels as a high-end and well-connected tourist, several times complaining about the quality of his lodging, while failing to delve beyond the surface into any of his stories. He in fact comes off as disinterested and fails to deliver any true insights into this potentially rich subject.
Ranjeev Dubey
Oct 08, 2012 Ranjeev Dubey rated it liked it
Sir Vidya indifferent is more insightful than most people at their best. The plot plodded but soon came back, more than once. The end was worth the intermittant plodding. One of those things you have to do anyway. But certainly not his best.
Craig Werner
Jul 27, 2011 Craig Werner rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
Simply awful. Naipaul often waxes curmedgeonly, but this doesn't even pretend to try to see the material through his prejudices. Inconsistent in his standards, criteria....A great writer at his best; no idea he could sink this low.
Tim Lucas
Mar 29, 2016 Tim Lucas rated it it was ok
The perfect combination of boring and mildly racist. The book is disorganised, with two or three unrelated themes being taped together. The final portion of the book is mostly Naipaul describing passages in other books he has read, despite their loose attachment to the subject of the book.

The editing is very poor with many typos throughout as well as whole passages being almost copied in two different chapters and turns of phrase being awkwardly used twice in consecutive sentences.

In terms of t
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Kobe Bryant
Jun 19, 2012 Kobe Bryant rated it it was amazing
very beautiful book about Naipaul talking to a bunch of African people about their faith and beliefs. I don't believe in anything because I'm an atheist
Cindy
Apr 13, 2016 Cindy rated it liked it
it's an intersting read he covers african religions , comparing the traditions, religions to the political , social developments in African countries. What's intersting to see is also most African traditions/beliefs share a similar theme .

Some chapaters have themes rather brutal especially at he begining of the book, I found it a bit hard to read, to absorb, to appreciate. The book however is not too dry as he wrote the travel journies in, the scenary, people. Stories about people, people's emot
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Greg Brozeit
Dec 29, 2014 Greg Brozeit rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, naipaul
As I read the various negative reviews this books has received, I can’t help but reach the conclusion that most of these readers/writers had a specific agenda or penchant to criticize and vilify Naipaul—indeed, I question, by some of the comments, if they had read this book in its entirety at all. The subtitle, Glimpses of Belief, refer less specifically on religion than on cultural beliefs which often have their roots in religious history and practice.

It is important to distinguish what this bo
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Steven Borowiec
Apr 28, 2011 Steven Borowiec rated it it was amazing
There probably isn’t a more polarizing living writer than V.S. Naipaul. He’s gushed over by many in the literary establishment, while being scorned by others who find him to be cruel and cranky.

He’s the descendant of mostly-Brahmin Trinidadians. He left his country of birth (he wouldn’t call it ‘home’) on a scholarship to Oxford determined to beat the English in their own language. He never wanted to be anything but a writer and a writer he became.

While acclaimed as a novelist, much of Naipaul
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Jessica
Nov 30, 2013 Jessica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
Right from the get go, I had no idea what was going on in V.S. Naupaul's Masque of Africa. The narration skips around so much that in the beginning I was not sure that it was only one person speaking. People's names are mentioned out of the blue and not explained, leaving readers to wonder who people are and what their importance is.

Bits and pieces were interesting, but I continually felt, while reading it, that things were being repeated. So much so that a few times I went back through to be s
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Sonia Almeida Dias
Mar 03, 2015 Sonia Almeida Dias rated it it was ok
Interesting, but I have mixed feelings about it. It was meant to be a small portrait of the african beliefs, and how they coexist. The "new" religions, brought by the europeans and muslim traders vs the old engrained beliefs of each country/race/tribe. However, it was very difficult for the author to be impartial, and to actually make an objective evaluation. It was always as if he was contrasting the backward ways of the underdeloped with the promise of what they could be.
Africa is in no way p
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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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