Set in postwar Malaya at the time when people and governments alike are bemused and dazzled by the turmoil of independence, this three-part novel is rich in hilarious comedy and razor-sharp in observation. The protagonist of the work is Victor Crabbe, a teacher in a multiracial school in a squalid village, who moves upward in position as he and his wife maintain a steady decadent progress backward.
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Anthony Burgess was an officer in the Colonial Service. In The Malayan Trilogy – Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in the Blanket and Beds in the East – he satirises the dog days of colonialism. Victor Crabbe is a well meaning, ineffectual English man in the tropics, keen to teach the Malays what the West can do for them. Through Crabbe’s rise and fall and a series of wonderfully colourful characters, Burgess lays bare racial and social prejudices of post-war Malaya during the upheaval of independence.