In rural Trinidad, Mr. Biswas is born to Hindu superstition. From birth, the author refers to him as Mr. Biswas, although he does have a given nameMohun. We follow his life to the end, through job after job, a marriage into which he blunders, from ignorance to minimal success; through moves from the country to the city, to a mountain retreat, and back to the city (most moves end in some form of disaster); all the while chasing his ultimate, but ever-elusive dream: to own his own house. As he reaches each step in his goal, he discovers that it is not what it seemed to be. Basically, a self-educated man, Mr. Biswas finally wrangles a job as a reporter for TheSentinal: a newspaper that reminds me of the National Enquirer. He does this by inventing a story that they publish. Had he lived longer, Mr. Biswas might have emigrated to the U.S. and found ready employment at the New York Times, or Boston Globe. Mr. Biswas does project some biting sarcasm. I particularly like the comparison of city to country children, city children wore trousers and exposed their tops, unlike country children who wore vests and exposed their bottoms. Sort of Donald wears a top and no bottom, but Mickey wears a bottom and no top. Another favorite is a comparison of Coca Cola to horse pee. This is an interesting story, steeped in native traditions, chicanery, and squalor. There is no deep-rooted philosophical message over which to agonize, but it is a lengthy novel (584 pages).
If nothing else, read the first chapter. It sums up the
American Dream, and maybe everyman's dream.
The early masterpiece of V. S. Naipauls 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 arduousand endlessstruggle 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 mans quest for autonomy against an emblematic post-colonial canvas.