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(01/09/2009) A House For Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul. New York. 1961. McGraw Hill. keywords: Literature Caribbean Trinidad India England. 531 pages. Jacket design by Stephen Russ.

A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS is my favorite V. S. Naipaul novel.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The rambling odyssey of Mr Biswas in his quest for happiness and freedom, and of course for a house, is a delight to read. Probably Naipaul's most human book, it is a bit as if Charles Dickens was an East Indian early 20th century Trinidadian, but better. Mr Biswas is a gentle man, thoughtful and fastidious, with a taste for privacy - a pleasant thing if one happens to have money, which he does not. He is a Hindu of high caste but very low fortune, living in the West Indies, and A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS is the story of his longing for independence and a house of his own, which becomes for him a symbol of everything that life has denied him. V. S. Naipaul tells how, in the end, Mr Biswas gets his house. Mr Biswas has been brought up on the haphazard charity of relatives. He is lucky to have his talent for sign writing, as the shopkeepers in Trinidad like to make a show and Mr Biswas earns a kind of living. Literally forced by reason of his high caste to marry into the Tulsi family, he becomes almost part of their furniture in a teeming establishment ruled by old Mrs Tulsi. Mr Biswas might as well have been embraced by an octopus, for to be private, thoughtful, or fastidious is to be a traitor among Tulsis. Following him from birth to death, the author writes with the delicate, dry humour that has attracted great critical acclaim wherever his books have appeared. He gives not only a wonderfully detailed and colourful picture of Hindu life in the West Indies, but also a picture of humanity anywhere as it contends with hardship and loneliness, pushing out its frail but stub- born shoots of hope and dignity. It was clear from his earlier novels that V. S. Naipaul was one of the most distinguished writers to emerge from the West Indies. Now with A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS, he has written unquestionably the best regional novel about them that has yet appeared - a book which triumphantly transcends geographical considerations, and a tale so true, so exact, and so deeply compassionate, that it put him among the most highly regarded authors in the world on the day it was published.

 

 

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