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Letter from India

India is in an ugly mood. But the recent murder of a Christian missionary is not quite so simple as it seems

By Pankaj Mishra   March 1999

Early in VS Naipaul’s terrifying novel about Africa and modernity, A Bend in the River, there occurs the brutal murder of a European priest. The priest has lived and worked in Africa for a long time, and his death moves the narrator-a deracinated Indian-into a reappraisal of the priest’s achievement.

“The idea Father Huismans had of his civilisation had made him live his particular kind of dedicated life,” he wrote. But the same idea “made him read too much in that mingling of peoples by our river; and he had paid for it.”

This was also the tragedy of Graham…

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