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Shiva Naipaul: A Hot Country (US: Love and Death in a Hot Country)

Naipaul wrote this novel after visiting Guyana and writing about the Jonestown Massacre in Black and White (US: Journey to Nowhere: A New World Tragedy). The setting of the novel is the fictitious country of Cuyama which, despite Naipaul’s claims that it was not Guyana, clearly is. The story is mainly about Dina and Aubrey St. Pierre, whose marriage, like Cuyama, is falling apart. Aubrey runs a not very successful bookshop and is optimistic that the country can be saved. His way of saving the country involves writing letters to foreign newspaper. He is, of course, a naive idealist, not in touch with the realities of the world, not unlike Mr. Khoja in Fireflies. Dina, of Indian background, is much more of a realist and, unlike the women in Naipaul’s earlier works, much less likeable. When Aubrey’s friend, Alex, arrives from England for a short visit, Aubrey starts to realise that much of what he has done – the bookshop and his marriage being two obvious examples – have been essentially futile gestures. The changes taking place in Cuyama, including a new constitution, will take place regardless of Aubrey’s letters or Dina’s views. In the end, we are left with a somewhat cynical view, both of the marriage and the bookshop, that however bad it all is, there really isn’t any choice. Clearly, after investigating the Jonestown massacre, Naipaul’s viewpoint is going to be more cynical and, in what will turn out to be his last novel, he leaves us with a not very happy picture of the world he portrays.

Publishing history

First published by Hamish Hamilton in 1983