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An Area of Darkness

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  921 ratings  ·  51 reviews
A classic of modern travel writing, An Area of Darkness is Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s profound reckoning with his ancestral homeland and an extraordinarily perceptive chronicle of his first encounter with India.
Traveling from the bureaucratic morass of Bombay to the ethereal beauty of Kashmir, from a sacred ice cave in the Himalayas to an abandoned temple near Madras,...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 20th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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O my God, did V S Naipaul get out of bed the wrong side every single day of his life? His Mr Grumpy routine gets so tiring you wish you could visit a poor woodworker in Delhi with him just so you could grab him and force his head into a vice and leave him there. ("Not letting you out till you cheer up old boy!"). The next time VS Naipaul rings me up and suggests a swift half of Tetley's at The Gladstone I'm going to tell him to call round at my house first. Then when he turns up I'm going to chl...more
V. S Naipaul has always been a controversial figure. Whether it is for his rude behaviour towards fellow writers at conferences or his show of support for India's Hindutva ring, Bharatiya Janata Party or his admission in his autobiography that his callousness killed his wife, this Trinidadian author has always been some sort of an enfant terrible of English literature. For all his genius, he also remains a vilified figure in India and not without reason. The Area of Darkness, when it was publish...more
There was a time when I loathed Naipaul, wondering how someone never born and brought up in India can pass such judgements on her so unabatedly, but of course I was naive.
Am older and less of a spring-chicken now in such matters.Now, If there is someone whose judgement on India I give a true fuck about these days it has to be his ( Well, may be along with Upamanyu Chatterjees). The rest are mediocre scum floating in their vast post-modern mediocrity. As Vidia himself put-India does revel in its...more
Bishan Samaddar
If you are an Indian, this book is one of the most difficult things you can read. The difficulty arises from the undeniable truth in what Mr Naipaul writes. You resist that truth but are forced to acknowledge it as well. It is uncomfortable: that someone (an outsider?) can see that overwhelming reality of circadian Indian existence—and what lies beneath it—and articulate it so well is not easy to accept perhaps. But one is moved to accept it. Widely criticized for its negativity, this book actua...more
it takes a special genius to damn a country for it's climate ALSO. and the world never tires of telling what a special genius naipaul is. this turn of phrase here. that most appropriate word there. lots of perfectly formed sentences in between.all of which are on display in this book that to me seems to be more about naipaul than about india.
with great subtlety he says that there is no subtlety to be found here. someone with a salary of 600 rupees is a "600 rupees a month man." another is a "1...more
This is a book that heartily annoyed me as I read it, but the last 60 pages changed my tune. I would never want to read this book again, nor would I recommend it to others unless they knew what they were getting into--but the endless historical essays on caste and English colonialization did eventually end, and did lead into a really interesting place for Naipaul. One of my chief complaints with the book as I read was that Naipaul kept himself aloof, that so much of the book was abstract histori...more
Alejandro Teruel
V.S. Naipaul caustically spins out, at arm´s distance, in silky, spidery prose, his accumulated frustrations, bitterness and resentments. Born in Trinidad, the grandson of a brahmin immigrant, he exemplifies the constant, dull, poignant unease of flimsy, shallow postcolonial roots triply severed from a childhood in Trinidad, a garbled, crumbling heritage from India foisted on a child that knew no better and a half-hearted yearning for an England that never was:
To me as a child the India that had
Antonio Nunez
In his native Trinidad Naipaul had always somehow been of India without being Indian. After 12 years in London, and possibly in an attempt to regain some sense of his own roots, he decided to take a sabbatical year in India in 1962. This book is the fruit of that year.
It begins inauspiciously enough with some amusing but not too jarring description of the endless troubles involved in bringing a bottle of liquor into India. We've all heard of India's elephantine bureaucracy, and Naipaul confirms...more
russell barnes
May 09, 2011 russell barnes rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Paul
Shelves: india, biog
Second time round, and good 10 years after I first read it An Area of Darkness surprised me more than I expected. Okay, so Naipaul is at best an arch miserablist, but I had forgotten just how negative and mean he is about Indians and the whole Indian experience.

However the middle section dealing with his time in Kashmir is wonderfully arch, with the previously-forgotten Aziz an amazingly Falstaffian character, simultaneously protecting the tourists, whilst fleecing them at every opportunity.

i felt like I was trully travelling in india in the early 1970s...some of Naipauls encounters draw similarities with mine! he explains the modern Indian psyche very well!
Pooja Wanpal
This book reeks of disillusion, but perhaps that is what sets it apart. It is not uncommon to find books overflowing with effusive praise about India. But being an India, a patriotic one at that, I do know sometimes the praise is hollow. India is a land of contrasts and complexities that one book cannot adequately describe. It will be like holding a drop of water and calling it the Ganger.

This book is representative, sure, but it fails to encompass the whole nature of India. There is a distinct...more
Amar Pai
V.S. Naipaul's first trip to India -- he's appalled by the filth, poverty, etc. etc. -- quite funny in parts, like when he's trying not to overpay Kashmiri tour guides. In the years since he mellowed out, and also India's socio-economic situation changed considerably. But it's entertaining to catch him here in his younger days. He's self-aware enough to find the humor in his constant disgust/snobbery/irritation, and he's good at choosing just the right details to convey the sense of a place. You...more
Nick Jones
I have no particular interest in travel writing, but I have recently become interested in V.S. Naipaul. This is an account – or meditations upon – his first visit to India in the early 1960s. Divided into three parts, it is only the middle section that complies with what I think of as travel writing (...but this might be because of my lack of experience with travel writing). In this section Naipaul describes his stay in Kashmir, the floating hotel he stayed in, the people he met, his joining a p...more
I read this while I visited India, and read about the Bhagirath only a few days after experiencing it in Delhi. The book is realistic but sympathetic. Naipaul sought to explore his roots, and warns anyone undertaking such a venture that roots, by their nature, grow in a particular environment. What is holy at the centre (bathing in the Ganges, rotted fish in Norway or Vegemite in Australia) may be disgusting to the naïve objectivity of the outsider.
I read this book a long time ago, so it's hard to remember a lot of the details, but I remember being wowed by Naipaul's vivid descriptions of many areas of India. In this travel memoir, he journeys to his homeland for the first time (he's Indian but grew up in the West Indies). The book explores his conflicting feelings about his identity (belonging but not belonging at the same time). It's one of my favorite of Naipaul's books.
A great travelogue of a powerful and insightful writer returning to the country of his heritage. I find the Naipaul's greatest contribution to the world has been his travel books. His sharp observations and ability quickly place his surroundings within history, politics and culture cuts through a dozen visits I could make to the same location to get the same learning.
a brutal criticism of India. probably very true too at the same time... the first time i've been exposed to Naipaul's opinions and i'm not sure i liked it all. in the end when he visits his grandfather's village, Naipaul sounds very like the Indian he has been loathing throughout the book. he has been very honest to say the least

Kelsey Coolidge
Memoir of one of my favorite authors, a little dry at some points but a fantastic mix between a travel guide and personal memoir.
Книга была запрещена в Индии - и сразу становится понятно, за что. Потомок брахманов, приехавший из Лондона, находит Индию нищей, полной отчаяния, грязи, а описание того, как индийцы испражняются абсолютно везде, где только можно, и разговаривают за испражнениями на берегу реки, сделано весьма колоритно. Но ко всему Найпол - слишком романтичная натура, приличную часть книги занимает авторский анализ различных произведений об Индии, собственно событий немного, зато рефлексии на фундаменте из бана...more
A lot of the reviews on this book are extremely negative or extremely positive, but I felt really middle of the road about it. I understand why people felt it was really negative and somewhat unfair to India, but I just did not feel the emotional pull I did from many other books I have read that take place in India. There are parts which are compelling, the section where he is settle in at the "hotel", but many of the insider observations just left me kind of "meh". The one thing it does do a go...more
Having read India a million mutinies about 15 years ago while travelling across southern India I grew accustomed to Naipauls understated love of India and all it's angles as well as his frustration and fear of where it was going and how it was developing. In this book it takes you back to India of the 1960's and having travelled some of the less touristy areas of India some of this was still there in 1990's....the dirt is there, the beaucracy is there, the frustration is there and the other worl...more
So far, this was my least favorite of V.S. Naipaul’s books. There were parts which were still laugh-out-loud funny, and his ability to pick out absurdities in everyday life still shone through as strong as ever, but there were parts of this book that I just had to drag myself through due to lack of a plot. However, I still find his writing style to be beautiful… one of my favorites.

I can’t say that I found his take on India insulting or insensitive, as others seem to have. To me, Naipaul comes...more
Michal Thoma
This is quite unusual travel book. The author, westernized brahmin born in Trinidad, visit country of his ancestors. And he don't like it. The book is full of mockery of Indians and everything Indian. There is no character in the book which is not a caricature. There are few references to some author's friends who probably weren't that bad though these people author keeps on the backstage. At the beginning this deliberate mocking is funny and everyone who ever travelled in India will recall all...more
I'm slightly surprised by all the lack of Vidya-love going around on the other reviews for this book, mostly from reviewers who seem personally affronted by Naipaul's oftentimes cantankerous, but always truthful, view on things. This is not a travel book. This is not a treatise on India or a policy book. This is a book that chronicles a year of the author's life in India in the 60s and his subsequent conclusions regarding both the India of the Raj and as a (then) recently-freed nation, and - as...more
Ubaid Dhiyan
An Area of Darkness is the kind of travel writing that steps out from the boring exploration of mere geography and culture to an exposition of why a place exists in the form it does. Naipaul's pessimism seeps through every page as he reports on his travels through the land of his ancestors. As is his wont, Naipaul makes striking declarations that you can't help but agree with, and at the same time he seems fundamentally wrong in his conclusions, his darkness.
From what I have heard about India these days, I am far from an admirer of the modern day Indian culture. I am not debating any of the facts given here by V.S. Naipaul but the shear asinine and hateful character of his rants grows dull quickly and one is inclined to simply shrug and move on. The highly personal nature of it all makes it seems just that, personal.
On the whole I thoroughly enjoyed this classic travel book, published in 1962. The majority of the book relates incidents from Naipaul's year in India, and the writing is great, wonderful imagery, brilliantly described characters. I particularly loved the section of the book about Naipaul's time at the Hotel Liward on the Dal Lake, the people he met there remain for me the most memorable of the book. There are however a couple of chapters I found to be a bit dry, as they read more like essay's o...more
Daniel Simmons
What a grouch! But also: the man can craft such beautifully precise (and oft-times hilarious) sentences that I'm almost willing to forgive him his condescension and dismissiveness.
Jul 30, 2014 Readerbug marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Henry Case
"An Area of Darkness" is one of the best travel books I have ever read. V.S. Naipaul writes with a frank, perhaps even brutal honesty that I admire. He draws on a rich background of literature to help develop his descriptions. He often compares his observations with other writers so you aren't just getting V.S. Naipaul's thoughts, you get a context for his ideas. V.S. Naipaul also often delves deep into his own thoughts and background to give you a better understanding for with opinions.
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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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“Out of its squalor and human decay, its eruptions of butchery, India produced so many people of grace and beauty, ruled by elaborate courtesy. Producing too much life, it denied the value of life; yet it permitted a unique human development to so many. Nowhere were people so heightened, rounded and individualistic; nowhere did they offer themselves so fully and with such assurance. To know Indians was to take a delight in people as people; every encounter was an adventure. I did not want India to sink [out of my memory]; the mere thought was painful.” 8 likes
“Out of all its squalor and human decay, its eruptions of butchery, India produced so many people of grace and beauty, ruled by elaborate courtesy. Producing too much life, it denied the value of life; yet it permitted a unique human development to so many. Nowhere were people so heightened, rounded and individualistic; nowhere did they offer themselves so fully and with such assurance. To know Indians was to take a delight in people as people; every encounter was an adventure. I did not want India to sink; the mere thought was painful.” 2 likes
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