Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Hot Country by Shiva Naipaul

This short very readable book gave a snapshot of Life in Guyana in the period just before 1980.
On reaching the end of the book I felt sorry that no modern Guyanese writer was able to capture the nuances of being Guyanese like the this author and Mr Battacharya of Sly Company fame. I thought Mr Naipaul's style reminiscent of Edgar Mittleholzer's. I liked very much how he captured the little familiar things like a mother warning her child not to let the coconut water get on the clothes and certain Guyanese phrases- 'catch as catch can'.
The story is about a well-meaning Middle-aged man realising his noble aspirations for the country and its people has all been in vain; even his marriage to an introverted secretive 'cold' woman is a far cry from the aspirations of his youth. The book struck me as a long 'short story', and while giving a good picture of what life was like in Guyana in the late '70's, the naked racism jarred with my 21st Century sensibilities - the book opens with the comment about Amerindians being expressionless, one also mentioned by Mr Battacharya but having been in contact with quite a few of the different tribes I tend to see them as having a very optimistic view of life  and generally jovial; further in the book the derogatory remarks about 'black people' also jarred but I concede that both reflected common views at the time and who knows- even now?
It was interesting that he managed to merge Georgetown and Port-of-Spain in his description of the Capital City in the book and being familiar with both I recognised the non-coincidental locations! Shame our Guyanese writers can't do something similar.

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