Presented by Harvard Book Store
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Harvard Book Store is honored to welcome Nobel Prize–winner V.S. NAIPAUL, as he discusses his most recent work of travel writing as cultural history, The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief.
Like all of V. S. Naipaul’s “travel” books, The Masque of Africa encompasses a much larger narrative and purpose: to judge the effects of belief (in indigenous animisms, the foreign religions of Christianity and Islam, the cults of leaders and mythical history) upon the progress of civilization.
From V. S. Naipaul: “For my travel books I travel on a theme. And the theme of The Masque of Africa is African belief. I begin in Uganda, at the center of the continent, do Ghana and Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Gabon, and end at the bottom of the continent, in South Africa. My theme is belief, not political or economical life; and yet at the bottom of the continent the political realities are so overwhelming that they have to be taken into account.
“Perhaps an unspoken aspect of my inquiry was the possibility of the subversion of old Africa by the ways of the outside world. The theme held until I got to the South, when the clash of the two ways of thinking and believing became far too one-sided. The skyscrapers of Johannesburg didn’t rest on sand. The older world of magic felt fragile, but at the same time had an enduring quality. You felt that it would survive any calamity.”
“In this elegiac spiritual return to a landscape he once inhabited in 1966, Nobel Prize winning author Naipaul spirals outward from the central African country of Uganda, to Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Gabon, and concluding in South Africa, to unearth in six chapters a sense of African ancestral belief and practice…. Ever fair-minded, soberly reflective, and conciliatory, Naipaul offers his sage observations in the hope that by learning more, we accept greater.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“V.S. Naipaul always arouses intense loathing or unbounded exaltation, and smugly watches what he unleashes: to him, a sign he is invincible and a transcendent truth-teller…. Fans and foes will be touched by this book in unexpected ways. It is an account of a journey through Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon and South Africa as he seeks out old beliefs and practices, from benign spirit worship to fiendish sorcery. There is vulnerability, trembling awareness of feelings beyond words, unprocessed ire we have not seen before, jumbled psychic wiring pushing him to the verge of something.” —The Independent (UK)