Wednesday, July 14, 2004


"The toddler looks up hungrily at his mother; he has finished his stick of sugar-cane, the mangled remains of which lie scattered about our feet. She takes out a banana from her basket, peels it, drops the skin on the floor and presents it to him. A congenial little slum is being created around us. She smiles happily at me." -- Shiva Naipaul, North of South.

The woman has two other children; they are all sitting next to the author on a bus from Malindi to Lamu, in Kenya. 'Congenial' generates as much of the sting as 'slum', you'll notice.

[North of South, by Shiva Naipaul, Andre Deutsch, 1978. Brother of the more famous V.S., and with a similarly forgiving eye. This is a travelogue taking in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. The emphasis is on the risks of being Indian in post-independence Africa. Very fine, very strong; but you would definitely be afraid to eat in front of him.]

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