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A remarkable work of reportage by Nobel Prize Laureate V. S. Naipaul that surveys belief and religion among the disparate peoples of Africa.
Like all of 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. It is a masterly achievement by one of the world’s keenest observers and one of its greatest writers.
“Engaging. . . . Naipaul’s latest African journey is eyewitness reporting at its best.” —Time
“Beautiful and humane. . . . The idea that underpins it is so basic that it achieves a kind of majesty.” —Harper’s Magazine
“Neither a romantic’s nor an anthropologist’s tale. It is a collection of voices that make sense only in relation to one another. . . . What’s important is what’s being said. . . . [Naipaul’s is a] brilliant and elastic mind.” —The New York Times Book Review
“With extraordinary sensitivity, Naipaul registers the beauty of [African] traditions but also captures their cruelty." —Bookforum
“One of Naipaul’s most stirring books. . . . [He] combines the objectivity of a disaster photographer and an understanding of history.” —The Independent (London)