Once while sitting with other tourists in a govemment rest-house in the Egyptian d~sert, V .S. Naipaul witnessed a scene in which some Italians dropped food near their tables to entice local children to come within striking range of an attendant's whip - a cruel game staged so that the Italians could take snapshots. Impulsively, the enraged Naipaul sprang from his chair, grabbed the whip, and threatened to report the incident to the authorities. Ended at this point, the anecdote might exemplify the triumph of honest emotion over· callousness. However, as Naipaul's account of the incident suggests, the show continued. Under the cool, appraising stare of the Italians, Naipaul himself became the selfconscious star of an unrehearsed mini-melodrama - a role in which he felt 'exposed, futile'.



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