V.S. Naipaul is 80, and in The Masque of Africa, tries his hand at some of his most successful kind of work, that of the travel writer. Here, Naipaul returns to African countries he visited twenty-five years ago or more, and records his impressions of the changes that have occurred . This being Naipaul, most of those impressions are negative. Part is Naipaul, and part is the appalling conditions of modern day Africa.
Interestingly, his observations about Africa are far tamer that his past utterances about the developing world. An older Naipaul, who every now and again in the book refers to difficulty walking and poor health, has perhaps become slightly gentler in his approach to the world. But don’t expect too much. Naipaul is still an acute observer of the what he perceives as cultural and personal shortcomings, and has an acid pen.
This is certainly not his strongest travel piece. But for fans of Naipaul, it must be read.