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In a Free State

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  2,913 Ratings  ·  169 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
Paperback, 247 pages
Published February 12th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1971)
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Sep 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Bobby Said, “I never learned to drive until I came out here. But during my illness I always consoled myself with the fantasy of driving through a cold and rainy night, driving endless miles, until I came to a cottage and right at the top of a hill. There would be a fire there and it would be warm and I would be perfectly safe.”

Rain outside and fire inside that is always romantic!

In this book, story gears ahead with the revving of an engine when a burst of blue smoke and squeal of tyres are hea
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 Naipuals case), but whereas most of Conrads main characters have a spark of courage, or decency or some positive human value, Naipauls alienated and displaced characters find it difficult to even sustain pet ...more
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Lady Jane
Jan 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
فهد الفهد
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
I don't know whether the sections that were excised from this new version would have helped or changed my opinion, but I found this difficult book to warm to, and it didn't leave me wanting to read more. What remains is a road story of a mismatched and not very likeable pair of English people travelling through an anonymised East African country at a time of civil strife in the post-colonial era, a very bleak read.
Dr Zorlak
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, colonial
Naipul has such an eye for vivisecting the colonial condition. In this novel he applies it ruthlessly to both native subaltern and dominant colonial presence. The last narrative proper, "In A Free State", is a character study of the highest caliber. Next up, A House for Mr Biswas.
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Fatima Alammar
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
يصحب بوبي وليندا القاريء عبر السيارة التي تقطع مساحات شاسعة في بلد افريقي، في وقتٍ عصيب يشهد صراعا بين قوم الملك وقوم الرئيس.
في الطريق الطويل نحو "المجمع" أو ما يمكن وصفه بالملاذ الآمن، الكثير من الحوارات العميقة، الساخرة أحيانا، أو تلك التي تكشف مكنونات النفس بشفافية وخفة ودقة.

لم تقتصر الرحلة على الأحاديث، ثمة عقبات وأحداث وغضب وخوف وعنف وتوتر. كل ذلك ممزوجا بثراء التفاصيل (سماء، غيوم، صحراء، مطر، غابة، سرب فراشات) وثمة اعتناء خاص، لدرجة الإلحاح، أولاه الكاتب بالإشارة للملابس والألوان والروائ
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-5-star
Comprised of four smaller, seemingly disjointed narratives, In A Free State is a brisk, enjoyable read. Naipaul's writing is haunting and one can acutely feel the loneliness, meaninglessness, despair, and the feeling of being lost in a world intimately shaped by colonialism via his characters.
Courtney H.
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookers
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
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jim Leckband
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
It had been a very long time since I read A Bend in the River and in that time I had read several articles about how messed up Naipaul was as a person. Since I had essentially forgotten the previous book, I was halfway expecting a misanthropic asshole expounding on how everybody, colonizer or colonized, gets what they deserved.

That isn't what I got when I read the book. Some of that might be in these fictions, but there is also a lot of empathy and thought. Maybe that is one reason he got the bi
Ben Batchelder
Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I applaud Naipaul's ever-present theme of post colonialism, and his focus on the denizens of the developing world. I agree with the Nobel Committee's statement that he is "the annalist of the destinies of empires in the moral sense."

However, I feel his writing style itself is too sparse, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks. For readers such as myself, that is not an experience we appreciate. In short, I neither recommend nor denigrate this book.
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
Oh, how I miss Tolstoy - and I never did like Conrad.
Sep 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Good read. Naipaul is kind of a an annoying person though.
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Hannes Spitz
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Die Geschichte über den indischen Dienstboten, der in Washington strandet und ein neues Leben antritt, ist herzzerreißend schön...
S Moss
Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Varieties of Cultural Freedom

All the narratives in this collection focus on individuals who have left their native countries and are experiencing the shock and disorientation that an immigrant undergoes. While the visitor has the ability to leave when the experience becomes uncomfortable or dissatisfying, the immigrant’s decision is driven by factors that cannot be easily dismissed. Naipaul creates five scenes that explore aspects of this quandary, three from the immigrants’ perspectives and two
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
В этой книге Найпол немного экспериментирует, исследуя понятие свободы. На самом деле книга состоит из трёх историй, никак друг с другом не связанных, плюс история в предисловии, плюс история в эпилоге - итого пять. Итак, что же такое быть в свободном состоянии по Найполу?
Первая история "Один из многих". Индийский дипломат отправляется по работе в США. Его слуга просится с ним и, после непродолжительных колебаний, дипломат берёт его с собой. Он объясняет слуге, что в США всё очень дорого, поэтом
Andrey Davydov
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The book deals with people who are suddenly detached from their environment, and are left to figure things out on their own, floating in a free state. Naipaul stresses the sickening uncertainty of this condition, which is only exacerbated by familiar things that acquire a new meaning. Santosh, a former slave from rural India who follows his master to the US, gets ill on the plane when he is made to swallow the betel juice that previously brought him comfort. What was good and wholesome now means ...more
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No, not a novel--and although the title story is certainly long enough, it's not a novel either. It doesn't have the hermetic completeness that a novel is expected to have; it needs the others to say what it has to say. It needs the bookends, presented as a traveller's diary entries: of the privileged outside observing the coded power structures that keep the marginalized outsiders--and their oppressors!--in their place, from Ancient Egypt to Modern Greece. These vignettes come the closest to Na ...more
I'm reading all the Booker Prize winners from 1969 onward. Follow me at:

I thought V.S. Naipaul’s In a Free State would be a quick read. It consists of two short stories and a novella, bookended by two travel anecdotes. This is the fourth Booker Prize winner, and the third to explicitly address British colonialism. I loved the first story. I puzzled over the second. And I struggled through the third.

The first story, “One out of Many,” is about an Indian domestic
Praveen Palakkazhi
Finally, my first Naipaul book, but this just didn’t work for me. It could have something to do with the edition. The original book published back in 1971 had a couple of surrounding stories of the immigrant experience in various places, as well as some journal like entries apart from the central story. However, this edition published in 2011 was a standalone version of the central story only with a preface by the author on why he initially didn’t think it was a good idea to publish the story on ...more
Jessica Webster
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: man-booker-prize
This novel, as declared by its title contains three related but separate stories. The first follows a servant who travels with his employer from Bombay to New York. He experiences confusion and shock at the quick adjustment to a starkly different culture where his own status is unknown. He struggles with the survivalist necessity of an immigrant to define himself and gain what success he can.

The second story shifts voice to a simplified dialect. This chapter tells the story of a second Indian m
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Indian Readers: In a Free State: V. S. Naipaul 2 23 Jun 19, 2012 03:10AM  
  • Saville
  • Something to Answer For
  • Holiday
  • The Elected Member
  • The Conservationist
  • The Old Devils
  • G.
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • The Siege of Krishnapur
  • Offshore
  • How Late it Was, How Late
  • Staying On
  • Heat and Dust
  • Life and Times of Michael K
  • Moon Tiger
  • Sacred Hunger
  • The Famished Road
  • Last Orders
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 about V.S. Naipaul

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“The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.” 2775 likes
“Me black and beautiful’ was the first thing she taught me. Then she pointed to the policeman with the gun outside and taught me: ‘He pig.” 1 likes
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