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Kolkata India
Timeless story set in Trinidad, undeniably Indian
Dec 22, 2015 04:36 PM 4045 Views



This excellent novel belongs to the very exclusive club of classics which are also breezy reads. At no point while reading it does the reader get bogged down by the kind of seminal status it enjoys that is the reserve of only a select few. Like most Naipaul books, with the exception of maybe The Enigma of Arrival, it is deceptive in its simplicity. It is a soft blow to your gut that surprisingly leaves a searing pain afterwards.

One comes across a number of reviews, essays and critiques that cite this novel as the most stand-out example of post-colonial literature. And to be sure, it is precisely that: a shining work of post-colonial fiction. But, it is also much more than that. As opposed to many works of similar nature, post-colonialism is only the context for A House for Mr Biswas. If the story itself was transposed to any other context, it would work just as well. And that is why the book is timeless, and placeless.

In line with most of Naipaul's oeuvre, A House for Mr Biswas is darkly comical. It is also deeply satirical with a vein of empathy running through its very spine. One feels a sort of amused sympathy for the characters, esp for the protagonist Mohun Biswas, as they make their way through the mess that is life in post-imperial Trinidad.

The novel is unapologetically autobiographical, the eponymous Mr Biswas being based on Mr. Naipaul's own father, and the writer himself tottering on the brink of the central story as the protagonist's son Anand.

I read this novel over three days, doing little else. I consider those three days one of the most well-spent days. I highly recommend this experience to everyone out there. The read becomes more enjoyable in conjunction with the collection of letters between Mr. Naipaul and his father.

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House For Mr Biswas, A - V S Naipaul