Beds in the East by Anthony Burgess

The final book in the Malayan Trilogy. The characters roll forward from the earlier books and the same themes continue – racial misunderstanding, colonial weirdness and an underlying sense of menace.

I suspect these books are not often read, nowadays, not least because the Malayan Emergency feels like ancient history, though it was only the 1960s. ‘Malayan Emergency’ was the British colonialists’ name for the conflict years; the Communists called it the ‘Anti-British National Liberation War’

Burgess doesn’t devote much time to the politics, leaving them as part of the impenetrable backdrop of cultural confusion and religious ambiguity that characterizes the final years of British colonial rule.

There are sympathetic characters, like Crabbe, the English headmaster and Rosemary, the beautiful Tamil woman who yearns for the trappings of English life, ironically described by the author in order to highlight their dullness in comparison with the vivid colours and emotions of Malaya.

A good book, written with a light touch.


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