In a Free State
is a novel by V.S. Naipaul
published in 1971, consisting of a framing narrative and three short stories, the last one also titled In a Free State
. It won the Booker Prize
for 1971. The work is symphonic with different movements working towards an overriding theme. What that theme is, is not too clearly spelled out, but there is an important aspect relating to the price of freedom with analogies between the three situations.
The narrator is initially on a ferry to Egypt, and concludes many years later as a tourist in Egypt again.
The first tale concerns an Indian servant from Bombay
who, having no real alternative at home, accompanies his master on a diplomatic mission to Washington, D.C.
. The two Indians suffer abominably from the poor value of Indian currency.
The servant lives in almost a cupboard and inadvertently blows several weeks salary just buying a snack. However he gets to meet a restaurant proprietor who offers him an apparent fortune as a salary, so he absconds and works for him. Once he has his affairs in reasonable order, however, he starts to live in fear that his master will find him and order him back. He also learns that he is working illegally and liable to deportation.
The only way of resolving the situation is to marry a woman who had seduced him but whom he had avoided ever since out of shame for his behaviour.
The second story has a unreliable narrator. It concerns a rural West Indian family, a... Read More