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A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul
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A House for Mr. Biswas (1961)

by V. S. Naipaul

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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
This multi-generational novel set among the Hindi community of Trinidad is a modern classic. The inter-family squabbling and intrigue takes on a mock heroic quality with humour and pathos offered in equal measure. The book can also be read as a fictional portrait of his own family and, in particular, his father. Naipaul also offers telling details about his development as a writer.
  vplprl | Nov 13, 2013 |
Mr. Biswas is "born the wrong way" and in his superstitious village, that makes him unlucky, dangerous, and a person who must avoid natural water (ponds, streams, etc.) at all costs. But as a child, Mr. Biswas gets distracted one day and plays in the pond, bringing calamity on his family and himself. The rest of his childhood is spent being shuttled among various extended family members and creates a lifelong yearning for a home of his own.

Mr. Biswas has ambitions, but no plans for achieving them; intelligence, but no common sense; and a decided lack of gumption. His entire life, recorded in detail in the novel, is a long series of misadventures, brow-beatings, and failures. He ends up married to the first girl he sees, and her domineering family railroads him into things for the rest of his life. Whenever he does attempt to break out of their grip, he is either squashed or fails so spectacularly that he must crawl back to them.

The first few pages tell the reader of his fate, so there is no suspense, simply a long explication of how he ended up there. Although there are humorous bits, mainly it's a rather depressing tale of a weak man. I found it a bit of a slog and wanted to shake Mr. Biswas frequently. Given the lack of plot, I was disappointed not to learn more about Trinidad's history or culture at least. Altogether a book I wanted to enjoy, much more than I did. ( )
1 vote labfs39 | Oct 1, 2013 |
Mr. Biswas' life is a comedy of errors. He is trapped in the life that was prescribed for him at birth. "Born the wrong way" and destined to be dependent on others for a home and food, he moves from crisis to crisis in his endless search for independence. His marriage only compounds the trouble. His arguments with his wife are epic and ongoing, but futile. His in-laws provide the housing. He spends his working life striving for some kind of independence from them and only partially succeeds and then dies. The story could be terribly depressing, but it is not. There are tiny glimpses of hope throughout, and especially in the end, the Biswas children are seen to have benefited from Mr. Biswas' efforts and are achieving success in the world - or at least more success than Mr. Biswas.
Aside from the story of Mr. Biswas, this novel is a glimpse into life in post-colonial Trinidad and the contrast between people who were able to overcome a slavish past and be successful, and those who struggled much harder. I found this article to be very informative on the history of the Indian community in Trinidad. ( )
  nittnut | Jul 31, 2013 |
V.S. Naipaul. Indo-Trinidadian culture was new to me and the most enjoyable part of the novel, but overall I failed to appreciate it as the masterpiece I have heard it called.
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Only pick this book up if you wish to slog through more than 600 pages filled with the bickering, moans and wailing of a large Indo-Trinidadian family. A Nobel Prize winner that disappoints. The plot is minimal, and the humor not to my taste. It bored me to such an extent that I have no desire to more fully explain. When a book is this boring there is just nothing to say.

After 144 pages: On the back cover Newsweek and Anthony Burgess speak of the book's "comic insight and power". What are they talking about?! There is a family where everyone is complaining and picking on each other. I don't see the humor at all. What I have learned about Trinidad and Tobago culture is minimal. Should I persevere?

Is this one of those books you are supposed to like, so no one admits it's bad?

Completed April 16, 2013 ( )
2 vote chrissie3 | Apr 16, 2013 |
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Ten weeks before he died, Mr. Mohun Biswas, a journalist of Sikkim Street, St. James, Port of Spain, was sacked.
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Una Casa Para El Senor Biswas (Contempora) is the same work that A house for Mr Biswas
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375707166, Paperback)

The early masterpiece of V. S. Naipaul’s brilliant career, A House for Mr. Biswas is an unforgettable story inspired by Naipaul's father that has been hailed as one of the twentieth century's finest novels.

In his forty-six short years, Mr. Mohun Biswas has been fighting against destiny to achieve some semblance of independence, only to face a lifetime of calamity. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning death of his father, for which he is inadvertently responsible, Mr. Biswas yearns for a place he can call home. But when he marries into the domineering Tulsi family on whom he indignantly becomes dependent, Mr. Biswas embarks on an arduous–and endless–struggle to weaken their hold over him and purchase a house of his own. A heartrending, dark comedy of manners, A House for Mr. Biswas masterfully evokes a man’s quest for autonomy against an emblematic post-colonial canvas.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:10 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Heartrending and darkly comic, this book masterfully evokes a man's quest for autonomy against the backdrop of post-colonial Trinidad.

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