Sample text for Sir Vidia's shadow : a friendship across five continents / Paul Theroux ; with a new afterword by the author.


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Famous in Kampala
It is a good thing that time is a light, because so much of life is
mumbling shadows and the future is just silence and darkness. But
time passes, time"s torch illuminates, it finds connections, it makes
sense of confusion, it reveals the truth. And you hardly know the
oddness of life until you have lived a little. Then you get it. You
are older, looking back. For a period you understand and can say, I
see it al clearly. I remember everything.
It can be a brief passage, for a revelation. Only a few days
after Julian first met him, he realized that what he had taken to be
a smile on the face of U. V. Pradesh was really a look of exquisite,
almost martyrlike suffering. The man"s whole name, Urvash Vishnu
Pradesh, was the slushiest Julian had ever heard, a saliva-making
name like a cough drop that forced you to suck your cheeks and rinse
your tongue with sudsy syllables.
The fact that many people in Kampala had never heard of U. V.
Pradesh made him more important in Julian"s eyes. He was said to be
brilliant and diffi cult. He was smaller, more frenetic than any
local Indian — the local Indians could be satirical, but they were
sly. U. V. Pradesh"s face, tight with disapproval, gleamed in the
Uganda heat. His hair was slick from his wearing a hat. Ugandan
Indians didn"t wear hats, probably because Ugandan Africans sometimes
did.
U. V. Pradesh seldom smiled — he suffered a great deal, or at
least he said he did. Life was torture, writing was hell, and he said
he hated Africa. He was afraid. Much later he explained to Julian
that he felt intimidated by "bush people." He had "a fear of being
swallowed by the bush, a fear of people of the bush." New to Uganda,
U. V. Pradesh looked at the place with his mouth turned down in
disgust. From some things he said about African passions and his own
restraint, Julian had a sense in him of smothered fires.
Actually, U. V. Pradesh had reason to be afraid. The Kabaka
of Buganda, Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa, whom Ugandans called King
Freddy, was being threatened with overthrow and death by soldiers
from the northern tribes. The mess came later, and was in turn buried
by greater calamities that were much sadder and more violent even
than U. V. Pradesh had predicted.
"Listen to me, Julian."
Julian did nothing but listen, and he wanted U. V. Pradesh to
call him Jules, as his family and friends did.
"Julian, this will go back to bush," U. V. Pradesh said,
sometimes in a scolding way, sometimes as a curse. And that suffering
grimace again. He walked in the slanting sun of Kampala, his shadow
like a snare. "Al of it, back to bush."
Sure of something, or pleased by the sound, he repeated the
phrase, a verbal tic called bis. He was always sure, so his
repetitions were frequent, a little chant and echo in his speech,
still with the faintest singsong of the West Indies — U. V. Pradesh"s
birthplace, the setting of many of his novels — lingering in the
intonation.
Julian started out knowing nothing, not any of this, not even
what the initials U. V. stood for, and it was only long after that he
understood. He was too young to look back, and knew only the terror
of always having to look ahead at the looming darkness, and instead
of reassurance seeing uncertainty and awful choices, or no choices,
and risk, and doubt, feeling afraid.
When Julian was young and he squinted at the big unreadable
map of his life, even the magnificent light of Africa was no help.
Yet he was hopeful. He felt he had what he wanted, and especially he
had baraka, as they said in Swahili — good fortune, blessings. He was
a teacher, but he spent most of his time writing. It did not matter
to him that he was unknown in America. He was famous in Kampala.
"Be grateful for what you have, Jules," his father had told
him before he left home. "N o one owes you a thing."
It was wise advice for someone going to an African country.
Julian felt lucky every time something good came his way, and
luckiest of all his first full year in Uganda — his third in Africa.
He had a good job, a reliable car, and a well-shaded house. Uganda
was the greenest place he had ever seen. He was in love with an
African girl. She was nineteen and he was twenty-four. He was at work
on a novel. His life had at last begun.
The African girl, Yomo Adebajo, was Julian"s own height,
nearly six feet, and slender, from a tall, stately tribe in Nigeria"s
Western Region. Julian had been traveling there the year before. He
invited her to East Africa and, just like that, she crossed Africa to
join him. In Uganda, which was a hothouse of steamy gossip and
expatriate scandals, their liaison was singled out — their not being
married, their living together, their aloofness from others in
Kampala, and the way she dressed. West Africans, rare in Uganda, were
much more exotic than whites or Indians. Ugandan women wore skirts
and dresses — "frocks" was their word — and Mother Hubbards, all
drapes and frilly leg-of-mutton sleeves, oldfangled words for
outdated fashions, designed by turn-of-the-century missionaries for
the sake of modesty. Yomo stood out like a princess in a fable in her
yellow and purple robes, her stiff brocade turban, and her sash that
was woven with gilt thread.
This young woman had the dark, drugged eyes and sculpted face
you see in certain bewitching bronzes from her region of Nigeria. In
poor provincial Uganda she was taken to be an Ethiopian or an
Egyptian — "Nilotic," people said, believing her to be a visitor from
the upper Nile, someone who, from her looks, might have arrived
sitting upright, cross-legged, on a flying carpet.
Ugandans goggled at Yomo — they were smaller and had to look
up — as though she were from some nation of the master race of blacks
that lived beyond the Mountains of the Moon.
She just laughed at them and said, "These people in Uganda
are so primitive."
Yomo was even more sensual than she looked. When she and
Julian made love, which was often and always by the light of candles,
she howled eagerly in the ecstasy of sex like an addict injected, and
her eyes rolled up in her skull and she stared, still howling, with
big white eyes like a blind zombie that sees everything. Her howls
and her thrashing body made the candle flames do a smoky dance.
Afterwards, limp and sleepy, stupefied by sex, she draped over Julian
like a snake and pleaded for a child.
"Jules, give me a baby!"
"Why do you want one?"
"Because you are clever."
"Who says?"
"Everyone says."
He was well known in Bundibugyo; people said hello to him in
Gulu and West Nile; he was famous in Kampala. Part of the reason was
that he wrote recklessly opinionated pieces in the local magazine
Transition. He defended the Indians, he mocked the politicians, he
insulted the tea planters and the sugar barons. A white planter wrote
to the magazine and said he would hit this man Julian Lavalle if he
saw him in the street.
But the deeper reason for his fame in Kampala had nothing to
do with his writing. It was the fact that he had been named in court,
in a prominent divorce case, as the Corespondent, the delicate legal
term for the outside party who fornicated in an adultery. He had been
promised that nothing would be revealed, but the day after the case
was heard, his name was published in the Uganda Argus. Everyone read
it, and he was put down as a sneak and a rogue because the cuckold
(called the Petitioner) was his best friend.
Julian had not laid a hand on this man"s wife (called the
Respondent), though the friend swore Julian had done so repeatedly,
as detailed in paragraph 5 — "That on or about the 23rd day of August
1965 the said Respondent committed adultery with julian henri lavalle
(hereinafter called Corespondent) at Kampala" — and paragraph
6: "That from the 23rd day of August 1965 the said Respondent has
frequently committed adultery with the said Corespondent on dates and
at addresses unknown to the Petitioner save that some were in
Kampala, Uganda, as aforesaid."
There were more lies: "That the Petitioner has not in any way
condoned the said adultery." No, his best friend had said that if
Julian wanted to make it true, and if this woman agreed, Julian could
sleep with her al he wanted. And: "The Petitioner has not in any way
been accessory to or connived at the said adultery." No, he had urged
it, he had set it up, he had begged Julian to connive with him.
And: "That this Petition is not presented or prosecuted in collusion
with the Respondent or the said Corespondent." No, it was al
collusion.
A disturbing knock on Julian"s door one day was that of an
Indian solicitor"s clerk, who handed over a prettily made-up
document. It was signed and sealed. The official seal of Uganda
showed a native shield with wavy and dancetté divisions between the
gules tincture, full sun argent above a native drum argent, crossed
spears behind the shield, with two creatures shown, the dexter
supporter a gazelle rampant and the sinister supporter a crested
crane rampant. The compartment ground beneath the full achievement
was strewn with native flora, and below that, Uganda"s motto on a
scroll: "For God and My Country."
The document was a Summons to Enter Appearance at the High
Court of Uganda, signed by E. A. Oteng, the Acting Deputy Chief
Registrar. It contained a warning. If Julian failed to enter an
appearance by a specified date, the plaintiff — the Petitioner, his
conniving friend — could proceed with the suit, and the judgment
would be rendered in his absence.
"I wouldn"t ask just anyone to do this," his friend had
said. "I asked you because I respect you more than anyone else I
know."
Then the friend promised that nothing about the divorce case
would appear in the newspaper. The ruse would remain a secret. So
Julian agreed, and the two friends concocted the story of an
adulterous relationship in order to speed the divorce. The man wanted
to remarry. The woman wanted to enter an ashram in southern India.
Fornication was unlawful, but Julian was much more a lawbreaker for
his lies — in Uganda, connivance in such a case w as a greater crime
than adultery.
"Isn"t this Mr. Lavalle a friend of yours?" the magistrate
had asked.
"Yes, my lord."
"Some friend!"
The following morning, Julian"s name was published in the
Argus. The tiny print in the "Court Proceedings" might as well have
been a headline.
"These shenzi Africans let you down every time!" the friend
said. Shenzi meant worthless. "I was a fool to trust those idiot
typesetters on that shenzi paper!"
So Julian became notorious. This wickedness fit the image he
had of the writer. Writers then were not the frequent and genial
faces they are now in this age of promotion, w hen they are involved
in the selling and distribution of their books — reading before a
small, solemn throng of people you might mistake for early Christians
at your corner bookshop; chatting to the bland man with fish eyes and
lacquered hair on morning television; bantering on the radio or late
at night with an interviewer, who is the authentic celebrity and the
real reason for the vulgar and overfamiliar encounter.
Before this age of intense peddling, which is the selling of
the author rather than the book, the writer was an obscure and
somewhat mythical figure, inevitably a loner, the subject of
whispers — an outlaw, an enigma, an exile. Writers were the more
powerful for their remoteness and their silences; the name alone was
the aura. In many cases, the author had no public face and all you
knew was the work. Today the face is first, the book comes last. A
writer then was gnomic, priestlike, a magician, not merely writing a
book but making a world and creating a new language. This was when
Julian was growing up, the fifties and early sixties. A writer was a
hero.
In Kampala Julian was an upstart, known for his American
brashness in this African town. He had an inkling of his impudence
and considered it and thought: I am alone. I am making my own life.
He had the freedom to do anything he wanted, but he had limited
means. He saw himself staying in Africa, going deeper into the bush
as the years passed, and finally setting up house somewhere beyond
the Mountains of the Moon with Yomo, his Nigerian. He knew just the
place, at a clearing near the village of Bundibugyo, in the shadow of
the steep Ruwenzoris, in the damp mossy shade and vitreous greenness
of the Ituri Forest, among the Mbuti Pygmies and the Bwaamba people,
a small settlement on the Congo border in the heart of Africa.
He had made many visits there and loved it for its being
unknown. The Verona Fathers at the Bundi mission just chuckled at the
wilderness. They had long ago given up hope of a widespread
conversion, and one priest in his mid-eighties working on a
dictionary complained to Julian, reader confiding to reader, that the
local Africans, Mbuti and Bwaamba alike, often contradicted each
other on the definition or the precise pronunciation of a word. The
language was uncertain. Ndongola was Creator — no, it was Gongora —
wait a minute, it was Gangara. The old priest knew he would never fi
nish his
translation of the Gospels. But it hardly mattered. The priests had
been there so long they had fallen under the spell of the Bwaamba and
gone bush in many of their habits. They even chattered and
procrastinated like the Bwaamba and the Pygmies. At least one priest
had produced some of the coffee-colored children who played near the
rectory and who filled Julian with the desire to see his own dark
children playing on that frontier.
"These people are so primitive," Yomo said, with her deep
Nigerian laugh and haughty heavy-lidded eyes that made her beautiful.
But she said she would go with him. She imagined that she and Julian
would be the only true humans there. She also said that she would go
anywhere with him, and he loved her for that. This small wet valley
behind the mountains, hemmed in by the vastness of the eastern Congo,
was an ideal place in which to vanish. It was not on any map, and so
it was for Julian to draw the map. As a writer he wanted that most of
all, a world of his own, and he could make it himself, basing it on
this almost blank and inaccessible place. It was not Bundibugyo, it
was near Bundibugyo, and where was Bundibugyo?
It suited Julian, trying to write, that he lived in a mostly
illiterate republic. It did not matter that so few people could read.
His secret was safe, the very act of writing was improbable, and he
spoke to no one about it, because he had accomplished so little. He
knew the worth of being famous in Kampala. Anyway, he was much better
known for being a named adulterer than a published author. And Yomo,
who knew the true story of the court case, found it a hilarious
deception, of a Nigerian sort, and the better for there being no
victim, except the law.
Yomo slept late, her black nakedness starkly mummified in
white sheets, calling out "Julian!" and demanding a kiss, and kissing
him, howling into his mouth, demanding a baby. Then he left to teach.
After a few classes, he walked up to the Senior Common Room in the
main building and had coffee and read the papers. He had lunch at
home with Yomo, and then a nap, and she plucked off his clothes and
they made love: "Give me a baby!" In the late afternoon he
picked up his mail, went to the Staff Club, and drank until Yomo came
by to have a drink and tel him dinner was ready. The Ugandan men
flirted with Yomo, but when they got too explicit she said, "Fock
you," and they faded away.
The country was thickly forested, full of browsing elephants
and loping giraffes, with soft green hills and yellowing savannah
scattered with flat-topped thorn trees. The lakes were large. Lake
Victoria was an inland sea. Even Uganda"s crops were pretty, for
there was nothing lusher than a hillside of tea bushes, jade-colored
with fresh leaves. Coffee plants looked brilliant and festive when
the berries were ripe. The cane fields were dense, and for a reason
no one could explain, the road past them, on the way to Jinja, was
always carpeted with white butterflies, so thick at times that cars
had been known to skid when their wheels crossed them. There were
hippos wherever there was water, and there were crocs in the White
Nile. At Mubende a witch tree was particularly malevolent, but an
offering of a snakeskin or feathers served as counter-magic. An old
smoky-brown skull mounted in the roots of a banyan tree at Mityana
was so ominous no one dared remove it. The nail driven into the skull
was not an afterthought but rather the cause of death. A prince had
carried out the execution, but a king had ordered it. Uganda was a
country of kings with extravagant titles — the Kabaka of Buganda, the
Omukama of Toro, the Omugabe of Ankole, the Kyabazinga of Busoga —
and all of them lived in fragile and tumbledown palaces surrounded by
stockade fences of sharpened bamboo stakes.
Down the dusty roads Julian drove with Yomo, stopping in
villages to talk to rural teachers. He was in the Extra-Mural
Department, which required him to travel in remote parts of the
country: in the north at Gulu, Lira, and Rhino Camp; in West Nile,
where Yomo was taken to be a Sudanese; at Trans-Nzoia near Mount
Elgon, a perfect volcano"s cone; to the border of Rwanda, where in
the purple mist they saw a whole range of green-blue volcanoes.
Uganda had been a protectorate, not a colony, and had known
such insignificant white settlement that there was no resentment
against whites, and none had been hoofed out of the country as they
had elsewhere in Africa. Muzungus were a curiosity, not a threat.
Ugandans were proud of their kings, who were superior to any
European — they had been more than a match for explorers as ingenious
as Burton and for al foreign politicians. The lesson for missionaries
was Uganda"s notoriety in having produced many of Africa"s first
Christian martyrs, when King Freddy"s grandfather, Mutesa I, burned
thirty of them alive. But these deaths only excited religious
activity, and Uganda"s martyrology served as an inspiration to the
missionaries who stalked the bush.
Indians were a separate category — muhindis, "Asians." People
muttered about them, but perhaps no more than Indians muttered about
themselves, for they were divided between Muslims and Hindus, and
they made jokes about each other, revealing some sense of insecurity.
Many Indians seemed genuinely liberated from caste consciousness.
Africans envied and disliked them for their supposed wealth and
cliquishness. Indians regarded Africans as weak, unreliable, and
backward "Hubshees," which meant Ethiopians. Yet Indians also felt
that Africans were unfairly privileged for their political
independence, to which some Indians had contributed but from which
they were excluded. Indians thought it was laughable that Westerners
paid so much attention to Africans. Money given to Africans was money
wasted. Indians and Africans were in constant contact, for Indians
were shopkeepers and Africans were their customers. There were no
marriages between the two groups. Each said the other smelled.
They were all colonials, Indian and African alike. Just a few
years earlier they had al been singing "God Save the Queen." Before
each movie at the Odeon, on Kampala Road, there w as a full minute"s
footage of the Union Jack flapping in a stiff wind and a trooping-the
colors close-up of Queen Elizabeth on horseback, in a crimson tunic
and black military beret. Now that was gone, though the memory was
fresh. Some butcher shops labeled the poorer cuts "boys" meat" — the
stuff bought for servants to eat — and the "cook boy" might be a gray-
haired man of sixty or more, and the "garden boy" another grandfather.
"The housegirl is hopeless," Yomo said.
Yomo had the African monomania regarding diet. A country
where pounded yam and palm wine were unobtainable was a Nigerian"s
nightmare. She nagged on this subject effortlessly but with such
passion that Julian was moved by how much she cared, how singleminded
she could be on the subject of survival. She would be a good mother.
"The girl never heard of kola nuts!" Yomo said. This
housegirl was a married woman, thirty or so, with three kids whom
Julian had allowed to play in the kitchen. Yomo exiled them to the
back verandah.
"You said you liked kids," Julian said.
"I want one of my own," said Yomo. "Give me one."
Two months of trying, at least twice a day, yet there was
apparently no progress. Julian remained complacent. His luck so far
had been wonderful. It seemed right to him to leave the matter of
children to chance, as that priest on the Congo border had done. If
Julian meddled or fretted, it would surely go wrong. Whatever
happened would be right. He suggested that Yomo go to his Indian
doctor, but she procrastinated. From her various oblique remarks,
always referring to bush clinics in Yorubaland, Julian suspected that
she was afraid of doctors.
Yomo did not know what to make of his Indian friends, could
not understand a word they said; nor could they understand the way
she talked. But she was patient. She sat and smiled and afterwards
she always said, "They are so oggly!" She also said that Indian men
smelled of Indian food, and Indian women of coconut oil.
The Indians in Uganda, despairing of India, loved living in
East Africa — loved the weather, the mangoes, the empty roads, the
greenery, and especially loved the parks where they promenaded every
Sunday, airing their women and letting their children run. They put
walls around their houses. The walls worked; the walls kept them
private. There was profit everywhere, there was space. In many ways
Uganda the republic resembled Uganda the British protectorate.
Institutions worked well — the post office, the telegraph, the
police, the railway trains, the ferries on Lake Victoria.
One day when Julian was talking with Indians about India, one
of them mentioned U. V. Pradesh. It was the first time Julian had
heard the name.
"You want to know the difference between East African Indians
and the babus in India?" this man, Desai, said. "Read Mother India by
U. V. Pradesh."
No one knew what the initials stood for. The initials gave
the name a blunt, impersonal sound, like a weighty name you might see
lettered on the door — a large door that was closed — of someone in
authority you were anxiously waiting to see: a dentist, a headmaster,
an inspector, someone unfriendly, possibly intimidating. That was how
the name seemed to Julian, unconsoling, and so far the name was
everything.
Whenever a book was recommended to Julian by someone whose
intelligence he respected, he read it. Mother India was a book he
took to immediately. He skipped to the portrait of the East African
Indian, in the chapter "Degrees." This man was a liberated soul, a
free spirit in Africa, but on a visit back to India he was lost,
encumbered and bewildered by caste prejudice. Julian recognized the
man, he trusted the book, and then he read the w hole thing from the
beginning. It was skeptical, tender, comic, complex, and the
narrative voice was never raised, never hectoring, always finding the
connection and the paradox. The dialogue was beautifully chosen and
always telling. Yet U. V. Pradesh was only a name. At one point he
made a reference to "my companion," but that only confused the
issue. "Companion" could not have been more ambiguous, and it also
looked like deliberate concealment.
"You are still reading that book, Jules!" Yomo made his name
sound like "Jewels." She was stretched out on the couch, an
odalisque, knees apart, touching herself, deliberately trying to
shock him.
"I like it, so I"m reading it slowly."
"Come over here and bring your friend and give me a baby."
She said no more than that, but the way she said it and
stroked herself did shock him, and tempted him. He loved her for
being able to speak directly to his body, and she seldom failed to
get a hook into his guts.
So life went on. Yomo waited for him to finish work and they
were together the rest of the time. She laughed at the Ugandans for
being primitive. They stared at her with bloodshot eyes. Julian wrote
poems and worked on his novel and took George Orwel"s and U. V.
Pradesh"s essays as his models for nonfiction. On weekends he
gathered up Yomo and they headed into the bush.
"Always the bush," she said.
"I like the bush."
Every morning he was in Kampala, he had coffee in the Senior
Common Room. Al the lecturers and staff sat there in shorts and knee
socks, like a lot of big boys, yakking. He read the Argus — now he
was a peruser and student of the Court Proceedings. He drank coffee.
He read his mail. In a country where telephones were rare and
unreliable and no one phoned overseas, the arrival of the mail was an
important event.
One day, a man named Haji Hallsmith sat heavily on the sofa
next to Julian in the Senior Common Room. The exertion was intended
to call attention to himself. His proper name was Alan, but he had
converted to Islam in order to marry a Punjabi. The young woman"s
brothers had objected, given Hallsmith a severe beating, and spirited
the woman away, and all that remained of the adventure was the
religion and his nickname, though he had not gone on the haj.
His face fattening with mockery, his eyes glassy, Hallsmith
leaned towards Julian, who could see that he was drunk, could smell
it too, the tang of waragi, banana gin.
"What"s in that cup?" Julian said.
Hallsmith laughed. He had probably been on a bender and was
still drunk from the previous night, drinking coffee now to prepare
himself for a class. He was a lecturer in the English Department.
"Just coffee."
"You"ve been drinking more than coffee," Julian said. "I
think waragi, mingi sana."
"So what?" Hallsmith said with a drunkard"s truculence.
"Isn"t that against your religion?"
"Drinking is sanctioned, except during prayers!" Hallsmith
shouted.
Perhaps from the effort of summoning the strength to speak,
he belched and brought up a mouthful of air, more banana stink.
"Do you know about U. V. Pradesh coming?" he asked.
Julian said that he didn"t but that he was pleased. He was
more excited than he let on, not merely because he had just read
Mother India, but because he had never met such an esteemed writer,
one of the powerful priestly figures whom he thought about al the
time.
The larger world was elsewhere, and the little town and
university were seldom visited. Occasionally experts flew in — the
Pygmy specialist, the cautious economist, the elderly architect, the
agitated musicologist; never a poet, never a novelist.
People from beyond Africa were welcome. The expatriates
needed company, for they had no society. They needed visitors and
witnesses to bring them news of the outer world, to listen to their
stories — because the expatriates were sick of listening to each
other, irritated more by the sameness of the stories than the lies
and liberties in them — and most of al they needed strangers to
measure them - selves against.
"I"ve ordered Pradesh"s books," Haji said. "They"re in the
bookshop. I"m planning a drinks party for him next week at my flat.
He"s staying with me for a bit. Come and meet him."
So Haji Hallsmith had appropriated U. V. Pradesh as his
listener and witness. Haji also did some writing: confessional poems
that embarrassed his friends. Yet they read them, always looking for
clues to that brief, bewildering Muslim marriage.
"What about my malaika?" Julian asked.
It meant angel, and Hallsmith knew who he was talking about.
"Your splendid malaika is always welcome, Jules."
That same afternoon, Julian went to the bookshop and bought
all the U. V. Pradesh titles it had in stock — The Part-Time Pundit,
Calypso Road, and several others. While he read The Part-Time Pundit,
Yomo read Calypso Road.
She said, "These Trinidad people talk like Nigerians."
"What do you mean?"
She read, ""If you vex with she, give she a dose of licks,
and by and by she come quick-quick when you bawl.""
"That"s Nigerian?"
"For sure."
The character Pundit Ganesh Ramsumair, in The Part-Time
Pundit, was unlike anyone Julian had ever met in fiction. The
narrative, sometimes in the first person, sometimes in the third, was
simple and strong, unusual, funny, oblique, very sure of itself. It
described a world Julian knew nothing about. Every name, every
character, every setting was new, and yet it was familiar in its
humanity. Among other things, it was about transformation.
He read three more U. V. Pradesh books. They were also
fantastical, assured narratives of transformation. He saw no literary
influences, no antecedents. They were original and powerful, too
plain to be brilliant, with a pitiless humor that gave them pathos.
The voice of the narrator he recognized from Mother India:
impartial, remorseless, almost cold. In his essay on Charles Dickens,
Orwell had said you could see a human face behind al third-person
narration, yet there was no face that Julian could discern here.
About U. V. Pradesh personally Julian knew nothing beyond the fact
that he had been born in the W est Indies, was educated in England,
resided in London, had won a number of prizes, was about forty —
nearly elderly, so Julian thought. The biographical note in the back
of Pradesh"s books was short and unrevealing.
Pradesh took no sides in these works of fiction. One, about
an election, was plotty and sprawled improbably. Another, set in
London, could have been written by an old, wise Englishman, and its
observations about age and frailty gave it a morbid power. Calypso
Road was slight but charming, ful of curious characters. They were
all confident, fresh, spoke with the concision of poetry and with an
originality that was like news to Julian.
"So what you tink?" Yomo said. Reading made her impatient,
lust corroded her English. She was tugging at his sleeve, pulling his
hand between her legs.
"I like this book."
The extraordinary ending of The Part-Time Pundit, so
unexpected and yet so logical a transformation, overwhelmed him. Why
had he not seen it coming? It made him wish he had written it
himself. The best of it was this: after all his changes of direction,
the Trinidadian pundit Ganesh vanishes, only to reappear in London
years later.
The nameless narrator, now a grown man in London, looks "for
a nigrescent face," sees the pundit from his island approaching him.
"Ganesh?" he says in disbelief.
The pundit seems utterly changed, wearing a tweed jacket and
soft hat and corduroy trousers and sturdy shoes. He carries a walking
stick and is marching through a railway terminal.
"Pundit Ganesh?" the narrator repeats, seeing Ganesh
Ramsumair.
""G. Ramsay Muir," he said, coldly,"" and the brown man
scuttles away.
"Why are you smiling?" Yomo asked.
Julian was thinking, I"m going to meet the real man.

Copyright © 1998 by Paul Theroux. Reprinted by permission of Houghton
Mifflin Company.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Theroux, Paul Friends and associates, Naipaul, V, S, (Vidiadhar Surajprasad), 1932- Friends and associates, Naipaul, V, S, (Vidiadhar Surajprasad), 1932- Influence, Authors, Trinidadian 20th century Biography, Authors, American 20th century Biography, Influence (Literary, artistic, etc, )Travel writing, Friendship