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3.30  ·  Rating details ·  978 ratings  ·  93 reviews
A novel of colonialism and revolution, death, sexual violence and political and spiritual impotence.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published September 12th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1975)
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Average rating 3.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  978 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is only my first read Naipaul -- I listened (via audible) to Bend in the River, and loved it -- and so this is far too slender a frame on which to rate an author as complex as Naipaul. Plus, he writes with a density that makes his work, and the reader's work, somewhat knotty. There is a deep neuroticism not only in the content, but even in the rhythm of his prose.

This particular novel shows, unstintingly, the author's foulness: his profound pessimism about human beings (presumably about
Aug 11, 2011 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 ...more
Nov 06, 2010 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
Samir Rawas Sarayji
The premise of this novel had much promise, but sadly the execution was lacking. In terms of style, we have different point of views with different chapters, as is common with most third-person POV. But of the 3 characters whose perspectives we share, the two most interestingJane and Jimmyhave the spotlight a lot less than the uninteresting Roche. Worse yet, Jimmy's is early in the novel and then we are left with a cliffhanger that foreshadows Jane's demise, so we are left reading over 100 ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is not exactly True Crime because the events have been fictionalized (sort of) and names changed. a lot of people here don't know this (judging by the reviews) but this is based on the murder of a British socialite, Gale Benson (Jane), at the hands of the popular black activist Michael X (Jimmy Ahmed) in the 70s, for which he was never tried exactly (but he was hanged to death for another murder). Naipaul has done justice to the story. the narrative is terrific; a resultant of good ...more
May 11, 2012 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
Vikas Singh
Sep 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
V.S Naipaul received noble prize in literature and therefore his works deserve to be respected. This is his first book, i have read and it has been a disaster. A dark violent book, I failed to understand what is the theme. Depressing and without coherence of idea, I found the book to be outlet for Naipaul's own fantasy and ideas about racism and poverty. A difficult to comprehend story line, the book fails to hold interest. Boring read.
Did a review of this book here:
Jerry Pogan
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
A rather dark, depressing, unpleasant book with some unlikeable characters. It takes place on a Caribbean island and follows a white liberal man, his girlfriend and a black man who is a revolutionary. The book seemed a little disjointed to me and I was a bit disappointed because I've read better works by Naipaul.
Sarath Shyam
Guerrillas will leave you with so many questions until you know what really happened in history. However, Naipaul's elegance in storytelling is the catch here.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leigh Swinbourne
Apr 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Guerrillas is set in an historical moment; it is about the disaster of colonialism, or rather colonialism as disaster, unmitigated. We are in a post-colonial unnamed mixed-race Caribbean Island, probably Trinidad, Naipauls birthplace, sunk in such desuetude and exhaustion, it is difficult to see how it can have any functioning future. The Americans are raping the land, the locals are petty and corrupt, any political resistance is in disarray: there is no hope. The landscape reflects the life: ...more
Jul 21, 2013 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 ...more
Jan 12, 2015 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
Jan 19, 2008 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!
Tanuj Solanki
You can see but you should not touch. That is the rule of the bush.
Kobe Bryant
Apr 02, 2012 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'
Mike Gilbert
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
No reviews in two years and now two in one day. Well, thats what a New Years Reolutions and cross country flights will do for you. This time the book is much more serious - V.S. Naipauls tale about a Caribbean uprising - told from the triangular point of view of a middle class, boorish/bores British woman, South African former Apartheid martyr, and half Chinese / half Black-Caribbean revolutionary.

This is my first read of Naipaul and he strikes me - in terms f first impressions - as vaguely
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caribbean
This novel left a bad taste in my mouth with its unappealing, nay awful characters, ambiguity about what people were thinking and doing and, of course, the appalling and unappetising description of revenge sex and rape. I know Ive led a sheltered life, but is spitting in someones mouth considered sexy in some circles? If you think it is, please do not enlighten me! If Naipaul thought it was necessary to include in a scene that was already a rape scene, why did he feel the need to include that ...more
Vel Veeter
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an intense novel that culminates in some pretty horrific violence that is sort of foreshadowed throughout and hinted at and finally comes to pass.

Theres other novels that are similar in some ways for example, Paul Scotts The Jewel in the Crown or Doris Lessings The Grass is Singing but where those novels begin with the violence and then start back to process and understand it, this one hints at it in the beginning and then barrels us forward until it finally happens. And so the effect
Michael Haase
I found myself overwhelmingly disappointed, having expected more considering the amount of acclaim I've seen this work receive. I haven't been as bored reading a novel in quite a while. This must be the record for the number of times I've fallen asleep reading a single book.

Although the title might evoke images of war and violence, there is very little action taking place in the story. The book consists primarily of descriptions of setting and prolonged character exposition. None the characters
Bob Newman
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Flawed Figures Fail to Fathom Fate's Façade
I've been a fan of V.S. Naipaul's writing for decades, both his novels and his rather gloomy travel writing. It is certainly true that a very disappointed air hangs over his work; nothing fails to let him down, the world is basically a bummer. The flaws of his characters loom much larger than their positive points. Still, he's a great writer and certainly deserved the Nobel Prize. But I'm afraid that every great writer has his off moments and that's
The Sounds of Silence
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Guerrillas is a terrific novel of its time and a shadow of Naipauls strongest work. A well-paced and entertaining book, Guerrillas never falters but proves to be a political thriller which disturbs the privacy of the three main protagonists. Political disturbance gives birth to sexual frustration and impotency of character. It shows conflicting personalities and makes the reader understand their deeper problems; it has the experience of a novella rather than a novel. Naipauls genius lies in his ...more
Julian Tooke
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have rarely felt so conflicted about a novel. The writing is superb but the story is dystopian and misanthropic. In this tale of the aftermath of the withdrawal of the British from a Caribbean island no-one comes out well; there are no lofty ideals just corruption, deep racism between communities, visceral violence and nasty sex. At times, I despised this novel but, because it is so well executed, I know that it will haunt me for a long time.
Great ending but not a good read on the way there. Seemed both dated and repetitive. Sadly, it seems the aspect I most liked is based on truth rather than being Naipaul's invention. Still, while the novel wasn't an artistic success from my point of view, I did think it laid out the "no exit" situation pretty much anyone in a colonial/post colonial finds him or herself in.
May 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dark-twisted
I really struggled with getting through the violence of this novel. Some day I may revisit Guerrillas, because as of last month, I was not mature enough to read this and still understand the full implications of the point Naipaul was making in the brutality and abuses of power prevalent throughout the narrative.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It felt like I was reading the final third of a larger novel, which made it really hard to get immersed in the plot or involved with any of the characters. I'm totally down for novels about post-colonial imperialism and the indifference of capitalism on the third world citizens it uses and abandons. I just wish this one set the table more.
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Great writer and interested in reading some other works.
Sarah McNally
Feb 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
Couldn't get into the plot at all
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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

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“She was without memory: Roche had decided that some time ago. She was without consistency or even coherence. She knew only what she was and what she had been born to; to this knowledge she was tethered; it was her stability, enabling her to adventure in security. Adventuring, she was indifferent, perhaps blind, to the contradiction between what she said and what she was so secure of being; and this indifference or blindness, this absence of the sense of the absurd, was part of her unavailability.” 1 likes
“It was what he had taught her, what she had picked up from him and incorporated, as words, as passing attitude, into the chaos of words and attitudes she possessed: words that she might shed at any time as easily as she had picked them up, and forget she had ever spoken them, she who had once been married to a young politician and had without effort incarnated an ordinary correctness, and who might easily return to such a role.” 0 likes
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