The In-Between World of Vikram Lall


405 pages
ISBN 0-385-65990-3
DDC C813'.54





Ronald Charles Epstein is a Toronto-based freelance writer and published poet.


M.G. Vassanji is a Kenyan-born Indian whose 1994 novel The Book of
Secrets won both the Giller Prize and the Bressani prize. The In-Between
World of Vikram Lall earned him his second Giller.

Vikram Lall is a former Kenyan official of Indian descent. His dubious
past makes him the target not only of anti-corruption crusaders, but
also his former partners-in-crime and their hit men; the former seek his
testimony, while the latter try to ensure his silence.

Lall reviews his life from his Northumberland County, Ontario, refuge,
showcasing a process of corruption that tragically parallels modern
Kenyan history. Lall’s in-between world is the product of a society
that views Asians as marginal. In colonial society, a middle-class
Indian was a “coolie” who could not be measured with the same
tailor’s tape measure as his white peers. “Uhuru” (independence)
means that an educated person like Lall could either succeed through
corruption or remain marginalized in an increasingly hostile region.

Despite the appearance of Kenyan revolutionary leader Jomo Kenyatta,
this account remains fictional, although its nature may be disguised by
Vassanji’s historical sense. He expertly demonstrates how the violent
nationalist Mau Mau rebellion undermined the Kenyan people’s sense of
stratified security. In later sections, he outlines the process that
transformed a promising democracy into an authoritarian oligarchy
undermined by corruption, violence, and AIDS.

Mature and intelligent audiences will appreciate Vassanji’s ability
to both educate and entertain his readers.


Vassanji, M.G., “The In-Between World of Vikram Lall,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 12, 2024,