When in 1989 Vidiadhur Surajprasad Naipaul was decorated with the Trinity Cross, Trinidad’s highest honour, the wheel had come full circle. Nearly forty years earlier he had left the island to take up a scholarship to University College, Oxford, relieved to escape from a hot, small, remote and restrictive colony, to the centre of his imaginative world. He later re­ called how, in an over-heated bedsitter in England, he had been ‘awakened by the nightmare that I was back in tropical Trinidad’.3 His first novels of Trinidad life, The Mystic Masseur (1957) and The Suffrage of Elvira (1958), prompted George Lamming to accuse him of writing ‘castrated satire’: ‘Naipaul, with the diabolical help of Oxford University, has done a thorough job of wiping [his West Indian identity] out of his guts’.4 In these novels Naipaul’s disgust is indeed visceral: like Ramlogan’s food shop in The Mystic Masseur, Trinidad looks as if it had been gone over, every morning, ‘with a greased rag’.5 The novel in fact shifts uneasily between sympathetic irony and satire. Ganesh Ramsumair, an incom­ petent ‘masseur’ in a Trinidad village, tricks his way to fame as a Hindu mystic, then to the Presidency of the Fuente Grove Institute of Hindu Culture, reaching supreme political status as ‘G. Ramsay Muir, M.B.E.’. But, as Naipaul notes, ‘The history of Ganesh is, in a way, the history of our times’:6 Ganesh is an impostor, but one created by a bogus society, and even shows potential as a genuine healer. He is asked to exorcise a malign ‘black cloud’ hanging over the boy narrator’s head since the death of his brother. In the ceremony, staged in Ganesh’s darkened bedroom, he tells the boy, ‘I believe in you, but you must believe in me too’.7 In an act of faith, the boy does, and the troubling ‘cloud’ disappears.