Monday, October 25, 2004

Review of the book "North of South"

I started to write a review of Shiva Naipaul's book this morning. First I have never written about a book that I have read. Second, the realisation that I should be writing my thesis chapters instead of blogs, was blocking my line of thoughts. So a unhealthy mix of these two reason made me decide that I should list out some books by few author and write a short reviews about them. Here goes my first one...

Shiva Naipaul was the younger brother of V.S.Naipaul. He was 16 year younger but died when he was 40.

The book North of South, is about his travel in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Like any travel writer, he wrote of his experiences. However, unlike a normal travelogue , he filtered his experiences into two different sociological themes. One theme is the relationship between the Africans, Europeans and Asians. The other is about the experiences of common people.

At the time when SN was travelling, it was few years of independence for each of these countries. Each of them was in turn being subjected to the pet ideas of their leaders. Kenya was being subjected to Harambee (self help) concept of Jomo Kenyatta and Tanzania was being subjected to paternal socialism concept of Julius Nyerere. So, SN wanted to find out what the commers thought and felt about these ideas.

He also wanted to find out why the Africans hated Asians? Especially, when they did not harm Africans like Europeans did. They just ran shops and businesses. Whereas Europeans exploited the Africans in every possible manner but no African hates them (then). SN wanted to know why it was so.

While analysing these two themes, he does not use sociological/anthropological jargon. He does not analyse like an academician at all. Instead, he goes about like a normal person who wanted to find out why certain things are the way they are but unlike a normal person he uses simple words to explain the situation as well his answers very well.

In short this is a book that will interest readers interested in Africa/how commeners experience the pet concepts of their leaders/Indian diaspora.

I quite liked this book. In addition to the content, I also liked it for other reasons: it brought me back memories of my experiences in Kenya; it answered some of the questions that I had while I was experiences the country.

Some of his other books are Fireflies and Chipchip Gatherers. Where he wove stories among the Indian diaspora in Trinidad.

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