In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul
In the beginning it is just a car trip through Africa. Two English people – Bobby, a civil servant with a guilty appetite for African boys, and Linda, a supercilious ‘compound wife’ – are driving back to their enclave after a stay in the capital.
But in between lies the landscape of an unnamed country whose squalor and ethnic bloodletting suggest Idi Amin’s Uganda. And the farther Naipaul’s protagonists travel into it, the more they find themselves crossing the line that separates privileged outsiders from horrified victims.
In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul represents the first decade of the prize, and was chosen by writer and editor Robert McCrum, who described it as ‘outstandingly the best novel to win the Booker Prize in the 1970s, a disturbing book about displaced people at the dangerous edge of a disrupted world that could have been written yesterday, a classic for all seasons.’ Naipaul, who also received the Nobel Prize for Literature, is the oldest living winner of the Booker Prize.