The Masque of Africa

The Masque of Africa

Glimpses of African Belief

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
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.
“I had expected that over the great size of Africa the practices of magic would significantly vary. But they didn’t. The diviners everywhere wanted to ‘throw the bones’ to read the future, and the idea of ‘energy’ remained a constant, to be tapped into by the ritual sacrifice of body parts. In South Africa body parts, mainly of animals, but also of men and women, made a mixture of ‘battle medicine.’ To witness this, 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 my book.”

The Masque of Africa
is a masterly achievement by one of the world’s keenest observers and one of its greatest writers.

Baker & Taylor
A cultural travelogue by the Nobel Prize-winning author of A Bend in the River analyzes the role of religion, mythology and other belief systems in Africa, tracing his journeys from Uganda and Nigeria through the Ivory Coast and South Africa. 50,000 first printing.

& Taylor

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.
A cultural travelogue analyzes the role of religion, mythology, and other belief systems in Africa, tracing the author's journeys from Uganda and Nigeria through the Ivory Coast and South Africa.

Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Edition: 1st North American ed
Description: 241 p. ; 25 cm
ISBN: 9780307270733
Branch Call Number: 200.96 Nai


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Sep 12, 2016

Unlike his other travel books, this one isn't filled with description (Middle Passage), conversation (Beyond Belief), a mix of perception, reflection, meditation, and judgement (Area of Darkness; Wounded Civilization; Among the Believers; Million Mutinies Now), instead, he for the most part records his experiences. Some of the things one learns are odd: apart from bush meat (eg., elephants and monkeys), people eat cats and bats, and he even describes preferred ways to killing cats. The tone is solemn and sad: "The bush was almost barren of wildlife, but these people were managing to squeeze out the last remnants, while their fertile land remained largely unused." (pg. 130)

May 12, 2015


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