I wish my first contact with V.S. Naipaul had provided me with more pleasure. Guerrillas seemed to promise the kind of novel I like to read: politics, conflicts between worldviews, revolutions, idealism. But reading hasn?t felt like an unworthy task in a long time. The novel seemed long and tedious.
Guerrillas narrates the arrival of Peter Roche, a South African hero against racial discrimination, to an unnamed Caribbean island. With him comes Jane, who worked in the publishing house that published his memoirs about South Africa, describing his tortures. Roche works for Sablich?s, a company operating on the island since the time of slavery and now trying to clean its image a bit.
Roche is involved in supplying Jimmy Ahmed, a local leader, with the means to create a commune that will enable people to lead an autonomous life. The commune is called Thrushcross Grange, after Wuthering Heights.
The novel never takes flight from this set up. Roche goes around the island, observing its squalor and not understanding very well his job for Sablich?s. Jane goes around having sex with Jimmy and becoming fed up with Roche. And Jimmy goes around writing about himself in the third person, thinking the whites are conspiring to turn him into a revolutionary leader so they can have a reason to kill him. Meanwhile he sodomizes the boys in the commune. And out of the blue something happens that sends the island into a state of emergency, someone is brutally murdered and the novel ends.
I?m beginning to believe that his best writing is indeed in his travel books. Or maybe I just had too many expectations for this novel. But I think Naipaul never quite knew what he wanted to say or where he wanted to go with this novel. I get the criticism of colonialism, the hypocrisy of white man?s guilt, the ineffectualness of revolutionaries. But Naipaul never makes it as interesting as it should be. And that?s a shame, I wanted to enjoy this novel more.