Author(s): V.S. NaipaulDownload
Mohun Biswas has spent his 46 years of life striving for independence. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning of his father, he yearns for a place he can call home. He marries into the Tulsi family, on whom he becomes dependent, but rebels and takes on a succession of occupations in a struggle to weaken their hold over him.
Some Reviews: 1017 in Goodreads.com
UPDATE: This brilliant author passed this month and President Obama honored him by reading this masterpiece. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read so it feels great being a fan along with President Obama, one of our greatest Presidents ever, if not THE BEST ever. Since reading this book, I have read more of Naipaul, and he is indeed a genius.
The “house” in the title alludes to a physical structure, a dwelling place, certainly. But it also alludes to self-esteem, to a place in this world, and to personal and professional successes. This book is the entire life of Mr. Biswas, to me an original character in literature. He is a “fish-out-of-water” from cradle to grave, very complex and at times comical. (It seems to me that the modern Mr. Bean comedic character is based on Biswas.) And it’s heartbreaking when Mr. Biswas says to his son, ‘I don’t want you to be like me.’ Without elaboration from father and child, we know exactly what this means to Biswas and his family. The setting is Trinadad/Tobago, the culture and geography new for me, always a plus for stories and novels from my perspective. But this is not a page-turner, rather a work best enjoyed leisurely.
As an added note,I’m always on the lookout for authors I’ve never heard of, books of which I have no knowledge. I pulled this one off the library shelf, opened it up and read it, avoiding book jacket blurbs, an introduction, etc. I will definitely read more work by V.S. Naipaul, truly an original voice.
This is the last book I anticipate finishing in 2012 andit required more then a bit of effort but in the end I am glad I took the time to read this 560 page narrative about life in the Indian colony living in Trinidad in the years immediately before and after World War II. Mr Biswas is modeled after Naipaul’s own father and he is an interesting character. An agnostic Hindu he struggles through out his life to earn a living and a life while living withby his wife’s relative’s the Tulsi clan.
Biswas is frequently unlikeable and it is easy to see that he was neither a great husband or a father. However he is more human and more realistic because of his frailties, as are all the other characters that Naipaul weves through this dense narrative where little really happens.
Naipaul has written a naturalistic novel that depicts in close detail what life in Trinidad was like for a narrow group of people. The themes of the novel are universal, family, marriage and the relationship between parents and children. I believe i will remember this booklong afteri have forgotten the details of some of the books on this year’s list which were more entertaining and easier to read.
If you want to challenge yourself with a difficult work of art in 2013 then you should think about reading this book.
A remarkable work, not least because the central character is often so difficult to like. Mohun Biswas, a man with almost nothing in his favour navigates his unsteady, awkward path through a life almost completely devoid of privilege and ease. What few advantages he enjoys, he seems incapable of leveraging to any benefit, most of all because of an innate revolutionary tendency that pits him against his potential benefactors.
The benefactors in this case are the Tulsis, his wife’s clannish family, whose overly matriarchal focus thwarts Mohun at every turn. In truth he is a tragi-comic figure who cannot escape his own self-sabotaging tendency. He is not an easy or a likeable character, but he is very often quite hilarious, sometimes intentionally, but usually not.
This makes him a singularly unusual literary creation. Mr Biswas is a person who seems all too plausible, and yet he is neither a hero nor even an anti-hero. Rather than a man with a fatal flaw who is otherwise redeemed in spite of his failings, Mr Biswas just seems a hopeless case. And even so, you are drawn in to his peculiar, lost, post-colonial world with a mix of sympathy and fascinated horror, like watching an accident in slow motion. And in spite of this, the book is a treasure, the prose so beautifully constructed and the observations so charming and delightful that you cannot help but want to read on.
Part of me wants to say that this is something like all of the Rabbit series mashed down into one sprawling book and set in Trinidad among people of Indian descent, but that’s so reductive, and kind of an insult.
Mr Biswas is so painfully human, struggling to have a meaningful life, fucking up left and right, being brutalized and brutalizing in turn. This was the first book that I’ve read in a long time that I read for pleasure, because I wanted to, instead of because I thought it would be edifying from a craft perspective or some such. And it re-instilled the pleasure of reading, of being told a story, being taken on a journey.
Also, it paints a world so completely foreign to me, one that I can hardly comprehend, that I’m still getting flashes of it in my head as I’m writing this.
This book vexed me so very often but kept on calling me back into the world of Mr. Biswas. The storytelling, vivid with its descriptions of characters, locale, and climate of the times, was enthralling. One thinks that you would recognize the characters and places though you had never been there in person. Mr Naipaul certainly created a visual world of solace, greed, and familial relationships that appalled and pushed the reader into liking/disliking people on every page. You never could quite really know anyone as you watched Mr. Biswas search for a home of his own. A truly worthwhile novel for those who wish a challenging book that in the end will reward your diligence and patience.
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