Synopses & Reviews
"For sheer abundance of talent, there can hardly be a writer alive who surpasses V. S. Naipaul. [He is] the world's writer, a master of language and perception."--The New York Times Book Review
"A superlative traveler who misses nothing worth the record."--The Times (London)
Beyond Belief is a book about one of the more important and unsettling issues of our time: the effects of the Islamic conversion of Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia. It is not a book of opinion. It is--in the Naipaul way--a very rich and human book, full of people and stories.
Islam is an Arab religion, and it makes imperial Arabizing demands on its converts. In this way it is more than a private faith, and it can become a neurosis. What has this Arab Islam done to the histories of these converted countries? How do the converted peoples, non-Arabs, view their past--and their future? In a follow-up to Among the Believers, his classic account of his travels through these countries, V. S. Naipaul returns after seventeen years to find out how and what the converted preach.
In Indonesia he finds a pastoral people who have lost their history through a confluence of Islam and technology. In Iran he discovers a religious tyranny as oppressive as the secular one of the Shah, and he meets people weary of the religious rules that govern every aspect of their lives. Pakistan--in a tragic realization of a Muslim re-creation fantasy--inherited blood feuds, rotting palaces, antique cruelty; then President Zia installed religious terror with $100 million of Saudi money. In Malaysia, the Muslim Youth organization is alive and growing, and the people are mentally, physically, and geographically torn between two worlds, struggling to live the impossible dream of a true faith born out of a spiritual vacancy.
A startling and revelatory addition to the Naipaul canon, Beyond Belief confirms the author's reputation as a masterly observer, a "finder-out" of stories, as well as a magnificent teller of them.
What is going on in the countries where Islamic fundamentalism is most dominant? One of the world's greatest writers tells us what he found.
In his first volume, Among the Believers, published seventeen years ago, Naipaul explored the nature of the faith he discovered and its capacity for revolution in Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Malaysia. These countries. he found, can easily be set on the boil. As he writes in Beyond Belief: "Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert's world view alters...He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story .... The disturbance for societies is immense, and even for a thousand years can remain unresolved". Beyond Belief takes the story on front Among the Believers. Naipaul focuses this time on the people and lets them tell their stories -- of being a Revolutionary Guard during the war with Iraq; of being a writer in Indonesia; of being an abused wife seeking shelter with a human rights agency. It is powerful, compelling, and at times disturbing, but indispensable reading for anyone who wishes to understand what lies behind the turmoil.
About the Author
V. S. Naipaul was born, of Indian ancestry, in Trinidad in 1932 and emigrated to England in 1950. He spent four years at University College, Oxford, and began to write, in London, in 1954. He has pursued no other profession.
His works of fiction include: The Mystic Masseur (1957, John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize); The Suffrage of Elvira (1958); Miguel Street (1959, Somerset Maugham Award); A House for Mr Biswas (1961); Mr Stone and the Knights Companion (1963, Hawthornden Prize); The Mimic Men (1967, W. H. Smith Award); and A Flag on the Island (1967), a collection of short stories. In 1971 he was awarded the Booker Prize for In a Free State; since then he has published four novels: Guerrillas (1975), A Bend in the River (1979), The Enigma of Arrival (1987), and A Way in the World (1994).
In 1960 he began to travel. The Middle Passage (1962) records his impressions of colonial society in the West Indies and South America. An Area of Darkness (1964), India: A Wounded Civilization (1977), and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990) form his acclaimed "Indian Trilogy. The Loss of El Dorado, a study of New World history, was published in 1969, and a selection of his longer essays, The Overcrowded Barracoon, appeared in 1972. The Return of Eva Perón--with The Killings in Trinidad--(1980) derives from experiences of travel in Argentina, Trinidad, and the Congo. Finding the Centre (1984) is distinguished by the author's narrative on his emergence as a writer, "Prologue to an Autobiography.
In 1981 V. S. Naipaul's Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey was published to universal acclaim. In 1995 he returned to Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia. Beyond Belief is his account of those travels.
V. S. Naipaul received a knighthood for services to literature in the 1990 New Year's Honor List; in 1993 he was the first recipient of the David Cohen British Literature Prize.