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V. S. Naipaul (1932–2018)

Author of A House for Mr Biswas

86+ Works 23,339 Members 361 Reviews 79 Favorited

About the Author

Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born of Indian ancestry in Chaguanas, Trinidad on August 17, 1932. He was educated at University College, Oxford and lived in Great Britain since 1950. From 1954 to 1956, he edited a radio program on literature for the British Broadcasting Corporation's Caribbean show more Service. His first novel, The Mystic Masseur, was published in 1957. His other novels included A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, Guerrillas, and Half a Life. In a Free State won the Booker Prize in 1971. He started writing nonfiction in the 1960s. His first nonfiction book, The Middle Passage, was published in 1962. His other nonfiction works included An Area of Darkness, Among the Believers, Beyond Belief, and A Turn in the South. He was knighted in 1990 and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001. He died on August 11, 2018 at the age of 85. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Frederic Reglain

Works by V. S. Naipaul

A House for Mr Biswas (1961) 3,461 copies
A Bend in the River (1979) 3,201 copies
Half a Life (2001) 1,511 copies
In a Free State (1971) 1,123 copies
The Enigma of Arrival (1987) 1,093 copies
An Area of Darkness (1964) 851 copies
Miguel Street (1959) 768 copies
The Mystic Masseur (1957) 707 copies
A Way in the World (1994) 668 copies
The Mimic Men (1967) 660 copies
Guerrillas (1975) 649 copies
A Turn in the South (1989) 577 copies
Magic Seeds (2004) 567 copies
Literary Occasions: Essays (2003) 282 copies
The Return of Eva Peron (1980) 258 copies
Finding the Center (1984) 200 copies
The Suffrage of Elvira (1958) 188 copies
A Flag on the Island (1967) 116 copies
Collected Short Fiction (2011) 103 copies
The Overcrowded Barracoon (1807) 87 copies
Vintage Naipaul (2004) 35 copies
The Indian Trilogy (2016) 13 copies
The Suffrage of Elvira (1964) 3 copies
No title 2 copies
Sacrifices (1992) 2 copies
Dolore (2021) 2 copies
No title 1 copy
Bim 1 copy
Aastha Ke Paar (2007) 1 copy
Half A Life 1 copy

Associated Works

Points of View: Revised Edition (1966) — Contributor — 415 copies
The Best of Modern Humor (1983) — Contributor — 291 copies
Granta 57: India! The Golden Jubilee (1997) — Contributor — 202 copies
Black Water 2: More Tales of the Fantastic (1990) — Contributor — 153 copies
The Norton Book of Personal Essays (1997) — Contributor — 142 copies
The Norton Book of Travel (1987) — Contributor — 111 copies
The Picador Book of Journeys (2001) — Contributor — 53 copies
Trinidad Noir: The Classics (2017) — Contributor — 37 copies
One World of Literature (1992) — Contributor — 24 copies
The Faber Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories (1990) — Contributor — 18 copies
Naar huis (1994) — Contributor — 16 copies
Bombay: Gateway of India (1994) — Conversation with — 14 copies
Enjoying Stories (1987) — Contributor — 2 copies

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20th century (306) Africa (397) anthology (171) autobiography (68) British (95) British literature (138) Caribbean (391) Caribbean literature (207) colonialism (102) England (75) English (91) English literature (170) essays (299) fiction (2,313) history (259) humor (115) India (611) Indonesia (73) Islam (351) literature (464) memoir (126) Naipaul (136) Nobel (132) Nobel Laureate (123) Nobel Prize (247) non-fiction (486) novel (539) postcolonial (79) read (110) religion (201) Roman (109) short stories (221) to-read (942) travel (669) travel writing (74) Trinidad (405) Trinidad and Tobago (75) unread (148) V.S. Naipaul (149) writing (68)

Common Knowledge

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Discussions

British Author Challenge May 2021: Na'ima B. Robert & V. S. Naipaul in 75 Books Challenge for 2021 (December 2021)
May 2014: V. S. Naipaul in Monthly Author Reads (September 2018)
V. S. Naipaul 1932 - 2018 in 1001 Books to read before you die (August 2018)

Reviews

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.
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ahef1963 | 68 other reviews | May 8, 2024 |
I quit this book half way through. Just didn't enjoy it much
 
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mberry2 | 4 other reviews | Apr 26, 2024 |
Mohun Biswas was a character to be admired for his attempts to be true to himself and not be swallowed up in his aunt's or wife's families, but he so frequently let his anger and desperation destroy his chances to actually achieve any autonomy.
½
 
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snash | 68 other reviews | Apr 12, 2024 |
Clearly for me, the best novel of Naipaul's I've read. Often allusive, meaning the reader must wait for situations and relationships to resolve themselves. Beautiful writing that illuminates the writer's serious attempt to look as honestly as he can at how his origins shaped the course of his first forty years. Naipaul's stance is that a colonial background and society will never fully allow its people to function as a thriving entity.
At the end the writer, as he sets down his memoir, sees a personal resolution in withdrawal from political and familial ambitions.
"It gives me joy to find that in so doing I have also fulfilled the fourfold division of life prescribed by our Aryan ancestors. I have been student, house-holder and man of affairs, recluse...
Yet I feel that in this time (his life to date) I have cleared the decks, as it were, and prepared myself for fresh action."
And so he did. This was Naipaul's second novel. Huge success for him was to follow.
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ivanfranko | 7 other reviews | Mar 2, 2024 |

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Works
86
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Popularity
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Rating
½ 3.6
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ISBNs
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