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A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul

A House for Mr. Biswas (original 1961; edition 2001)

by V. S. Naipaul

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Title:A House for Mr. Biswas
Authors:V. S. Naipaul
Info:New York : Vintage International, 2001, c1961.
Collections:Your library

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


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English (53)  Dutch (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul is one of the finest books I've ever read. With beautiful prose, dark humour, and an almost eerie gift for capturing personalities, I find it no surprise that Naipaul is a Nobel Prize winner, and that his books are beloved.

Mr. Mohun Biswas, whose parents emigrated from India to Trinidad, is a simple man in most respects. He is intelligent, a worrier, short of temper, with a non-stop commentary on how the world in general has wronged him. He begrudges his in-laws their home and takes no interest in the fact that they provide him with free board, and that they lessen his perennial penury. What Mr. Biswas wants more than anything is his own house, one that he owns, one where he can be king of the castle. He has no idea how to go about attaining his desire; he tries once, but has a house built so poorly, so inexpertly, that it falls down in the first wind and rain storm it encounters. The house is representative of Mr. Biswas's life - he is forever doing things in half-measures and failing to understand that without passion, he is never going to attain his dreams. His life, like his house, collapses in a series of mishaps which are mainly his own fault.

Mr. Biswas has opportunities. In turn, he becomes a pundit (a Caribbean usage of the word pandit, meaning Hindu priest), a shopkeeper, and a journalist, but with his sense of entitlement and deep-rooted ability to mess up everything he is given, his careers fail, his pocketbook suffers, and he and his family practically become itinerant, nomads of the desert of rooms and houses belonging to somebody else.

A House for Mr. Biswas succeeds because the title character, while feckless and annoying, deeply selfish and ungrateful, is also the underdog. Everybody cheers for the underdog. Even as we often despise Mr. Biswas and his actions, we keep hoping that next time he will succeed - his career will take a swing towards the positive; he'll be able to buy that house he dreams of. So we follow him, impatient with his mannerisms but still wishing him well.

What I in particular liked about this book was its slow pace. A brief side note here - I have always had difficulty reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because his stories take forever to unfold. My daughter, who spent some time living in Latin America, really loves Garcia Marquez, because she says that the people in this overheated countries move slowly, get things done slowly, and so she understands the snail's pace of GGM, and loves his books the more for them. I think I may finally have understood what my daughter told me all those years ago. The employees at the newspaper where Mr. Biswas is employed go home for lunch and a long afternoon nap and return to work when the day begins to cool, because it's too hot to act in any other fashion. So the book is paced, taking longer than I usually like to explain things, because that's the way life unfolds in the tropics, turtle-slow and suffering the heat.

A House for Mr. Biswas entered that rare category for me: the instant favourite. It's in a class by itself, and I can't wait to read more of his novels. ( )
  ahef1963 | Apr 10, 2019 |
I chuckled often when I read this story inspired by the Nobel prize-winning author’s father. Set in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tabago, Naipaul takes us into the extended Indian family who emigrated to work in the sugar cane fields. I enjoyed the mix of humor and sadness, as there seems to be no way to improve his standings. Yes, he has a house but, but by many standards there’s still a lot to be desired. ( )
  brangwinn | Oct 26, 2018 |
Full of the anxieties that plagued V.S. Naipaul in his early writing life. Mr. Biswas is a tortured soul, broken down by indecision and the strictures of poverty, and familial culture. Naipaul suffered too. His struggle to say something convincing on the page drove him to depression; this book was his breakthrough.
The lucky character who escapes the tyranny of his family and its mean culture is Mr Biswas' son, Anand. He gains a qualification to study and live in England, as did V.S. The letters home to Trinidad decrease. He has found a home, just as Mr. Biswas at the end of his life, finds his own house.
Wonderful reading.
  ivanfranko | Nov 8, 2017 |
A simple story, touching at times with Mr Biswas's perseverance, stubbornness and how he deals with circumstances when he is swept along by them. Not a likeable person but you do feel a touch of pity when he dies. The story reminds you not to be like him i.e. to be swept along by life. ( )
  siok | Jan 30, 2017 |
I read this because of an online book club. Actually I don't remember much about it except that it was long. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
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Awards and honors
For this book written between 1957 and 1960 A Late Dedication
31 July 1932, Gloucester
3 February 1996, Salterton
First words
Ten weeks before he died, Mr. Mohun Biswas, a journalist of Sikkim Street, St. James, Port of Spain, was sacked.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Una Casa Para El Senor Biswas (Contempora) is the same work as 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:40 -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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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