Picador, 2004, 294 p.; condition: very good
Willie Chandran is a man who has allowed one identity after another to be thrust upon him. In his early forties, after a peripatetic life, he succumbs to the encouragement of his sister – and his own listlessness – and joins an underground movement in India. But years of revolutionary campaigns and then prison convince him that the revolution ‘had nothing to do with what we were fighting for’, and he feels himself further than ever ‘from his own history’.
When he returns to Britain where, thirty years before, his wanderings began, Willie encounters a country that has turned its back on its past and, like him, has become detached from its own history. He endures the indignities of a culture dissipated by reform and compromise until, in a moment of grotesque revelation – a tour de force of parodic savagery from our most visionary of writers – Willie comes to an understanding that might finally allow him to release his true self.
This book is the second volume of Half A Life, but can be read alone.