A friend once mentioned that he had read an interesting book of essays by V.S. Naipaul with a major one about Eva Peron, The Return of Eva Peron with Killings in Trinidad (1980), and I found an out of print copy to read since the essay intrigued me. All of the pieces, according to the author's note, were written between 1972 and 1975 (save later additions to the two first essays), when Naipaul was not writing a novel. All the essays appeared in The New York Review of Books save "The Killings in Trinidad," which was published in the the London Sunday Times. The four essays are: "Michael X and the Black Power Killings in Trinidad," "The Return of Eva Peron," "A New King for the Congo: Mobutu and the Nihilism of Africa, and "Conrad's Darkness."
The first essay and perhaps the most obscure for me, but obviously the most interesting for Naipaul, concerns murders that take place at a Black Power commune in Trinidad that is 92 pages in total. I can see why these event were of interest to Naipaul in particular since they concern race, class, the concept of the writer, and Naipaul's home country of Trinidad which he left for England not unlike the former criminal, would be writer-activist Michael X.
"The Return of Eva Peron" read like a New Yorker "Letter From ... Buenos Aires," in that it is a summation of that nation during the time of Naipaul's several visits between 1972 and 1977. Thus the essays has five parts: "1. The Corpse at the Iron Gate" from 1972 which discusses the legacy of Eva and Juan Peron, "2. "Borges and the Bogus Past," which doesn't come off as a tribute to the great Argentinian author-more like a character assassination, "3. Kamikaze in Montevideo," which looks at Argentina's little neighbor Uruguay and its financial meltdown in 1973, "4. Brothels Behind the Graveyard," written in 1974 is more about politics and the history of Argentina which decimated its Indian population early in the 20th century, "5. The Terror," written in 1977 and discusses torture, politics, and death and the legacy of these things in the country. One is being to see that Naipaul is drawn to developing countries that were former colonies of European powers that deep in the throes of identity crisis'.
In "A New King for the Congo: Mobutu and the Nihilism of Africa," Naipaul looks at the former Belgian colony of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then known as Zaire and the despotic rule of its former leader Mobutu Sese Senko in 1975. Again one sees a trend in the interests of Naipaul-former colonies of European powers. He sets the scene from which in the recent past Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle," of which Naipaul sees more as a publicity stunt for Mobutu. Mobutu ruled until 1997 when there was civil war in which Laurent Kabila wrestled power form Mobutu. Echoes of Conrad are scene in this report, as inexplicably they were present in the Eva Peron piece.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that Naipaul discusses that author's influence on him in "Conrad's Darkness." One might walk away from the essay with the notion that Naipaul has improved upon the author's work. All in all a fascinating collection of articles from the early to late 70s.