Zenosbooks

(01/20/2009) The Mimic Men by V. S. Naipaul. New York. 1967. Macmillan. keywords: Literature Caribbean Trinidad England India. 302 pages. Jacket design by Rudolph de Harak.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'We pretend to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World. with all its reminders of the corruption that came so quickly to the new. ' Brilliant, witty, and tragic, this novel by one of our most distinguished young novelists is his most profound and ambitious to date. His earlier works of fiction, including the famous A HOUSE FOR MR. BISWAS, grew out of his Trinidad Brahmin background; his most recent novel before this one, MR. STONE AND THE KNIGHTS COMPANION, was a remarkably pure example of the English novel, with no reference to the author's unique social and geographical antecedents. Now, in THE MIMIC MEN, Mr. Naipaul for the first time draws on all of his rich and varied backgrounds as a man and as an artist, melds them into a unity that offers full scope for the wit and the tragic sense that are his special stylistic creation, and so offers the reader a vivid, deeply disturbing comment on today's society. Simon Gray in The New Statesman calls this novel 'a complex and masterful achievement. ' Ralph Singh, the central figure who is at once protagonist and narrator, is himself one of the 'mimic men,' with a multiplicity of roles: man of affairs, householder, student, millionaire, politician, refugee immigrant, London dandy, maneuverer and organizer, recluse. The story moves back and forth between the lush colonial island of Isabella and the urbanities and loneliness of London. Singh is both an activist and an observer, a chained and desperate spirit living between twin threats. The form of the novel is as complex as its meaning, but Naipaul handles space and time as surely as he handles his characters' actions and feelings. The result is a troubling, fascinating, exotic story, told in dazzling prose. The book can be enjoyed purely as storytelling for its taut narration and the interaction of its variety of sharply etched characters. However, most readers will find beneath the surface a probing view of the enigma of modern man, 'the double dream within the dream.'

 

 

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