Moving beyond travelogue, V. S. Naipaul's The Masque of Africa considers 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 African civilization. Beginning in Uganda, at the centre of the continent, Naipaul's journey takes in Ghana and Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Gabon, and ends, as the country does, in South Africa.
Focusing upon the theme of belief - though sometimes the political or economical realities are so overwhelming that they have to be taken into account - Naipaul examines the fragile but enduring quality of the old world of magic. To witness the ubiquity of such ancient ritual, to be given some idea of its power, was to be taken far back to the beginning of things. To reach that beginning was the purpose of this book.
`The quality of Naipaul's writing - simple, concise, engaging - rarely varies . . . Above all, Naipaul's latest African journey is eyewitness reporting at its best' Time
V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He came to England on a scholarship in 1950. He spent four years at University College, Oxford, and began to write, in London, in 1954. He pursued no other profession.
His novels include A House for Mr Biswas, The Mimic Men, Guerrillas, A Bend in the River, and The Enigma of Arrival. In 1971 he was awarded the Booker Prize for In a Free State. His works of nonfiction, equally acclaimed, include Among the Believers, Beyond Belief, The Masque of Africa, and a trio of books about India: An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilization and India: A Million Mutinies Now.
In 1990, V. S. Naipaul received a knighthood for services to literature; in 1993, he was the first recipient of the David Cohen British Literature Prize. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001. He lived with his wife Nadira and cat Augustus in Wiltshire, and died in 2018.