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20th Century House For Mr Biswas [Paperback]

V Naipaul , Ian Buruma
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 4 1993 Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
The book that first brought Naipaul worldwide acclaim, this richly comic novel tells the moving story of a man without a single asset who enters a life devoid of opportunity, and whose tumble-down house becomes a potent symbol of the search for identity in a postcolonial world.

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Product Description


'A marvellous prose epic that matches the best 19th century novels' Newsweek --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"Naipaul has constructed a marvelous prose epic that matches the best nineteenth-century novels for richness of comic insight and final, tragic power."–Newsweek

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can go home again...and again... Jan. 9 2003
A House for Mr. Biswas was the fifth book of V.S. Naipaul's that I have read, and I think nicely punctuates the first phase of his oeuvre. In order, I read Between Father and Son, The Mystic Masseur, The Suffrage of Elvira, Miguel Street, and A House for Mr. Biswas; and now I am on to The Middle Passage. I recommend reading Between Father and Son before A House for Mr. Biswas because of the revealing nature of the former, the clearly autobiographical nature of the latter, and the added poignancy that comes from fully recognizing the aspirations and achievements of both the fictional and the real participants of Mr. Naipaul's life. While the other works are entertaining and offer insight into life in Trinidad, they are not critical in forming a complete appreciation for A House for Mr. Biswas. Naipaul's letters to and from his family during his time at Oxford clarify and qualify what he says later in his first mature work and longest novel.
A House for Mr. Biswas opens with the announcement of the death of our hero, and then traces his past though his youth, marriage, career, and the achievement of his lifelong dream-the acquisition of his own home. Mr. Biswas is representative of everyone who has struggled to identify themselves as an individual in a crowd. Having lived his life under the ostensible control of others, it is only in this final achievement of possessing a home that he truly becomes free. Naipaul's often acclaimed prose is readily evident in this fond portrayal of his father, and his often declaimed pessimism is nowhere to be found by this reader. Although Mr.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwrenching Sept. 12 2009
By Saro
During his 46 short years, Mr Biswas has always struggled to seek and define his sense of self but to no avail. A House for Mr Biswas is V.S. Naipaul's gripping and satirical tragicomedy of errors which is quite reminiscent of Gogol's portrait of harried and desperate characters. Early in life, Mr Biswas is proclaimed to be 'born the wrong way and thrust into a world that greeted him with little more than a bad omen' and shuffled from one frail and crumblng house to another, from one set of relations to another, always threatened with instability and ridicule. Hence, Mr Biswas has attempted to be self-sufficient, carve out a modest living, and shape his own destiny away from the cloying purse strings and meddling influence of his treacherous in-laws.

During my frenzied reading, I felt my literary sensibilities bursting with such fervour. As an ardent bookworm, I have always associated the art of reading with the will to live, the desire and willingness to savour life's bittersweet moments. Indeed, my reading hibernation ended with the gradual bloom of Spring. In fact, A House for Mr Biswas recalled to mind my Indiophile tendencies which had been laid to rest for quite some time. Through the sometimes comical, witty, and the quietly desperate Mohun Biswas, I found myself reclaiming something of myself. Indeed, the character of Mr Biswas felt like a kindred soul who, like me, has spent almost a lifetime carving out a distinct identity which struggles against calamitous and trivial events alike time and time again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a delicate hand April 29 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Using an unreliable and not completely likeable but nonetheless sympathetic narrator to offer a critique and insights into the daily lives, nuances and reality of complex family life and the human in a fascinating cultural setting was a beautiful accomplishment.
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I'd always gone along with the bias against Naipaul due to his conservative, some would say neocolonial, politics. Big mistake. This is great writing, a fun book, and real social criticism. Though it is hundreds of pages long, this read felt bad when he finished it that there were not another 500 pages to read!
He really captures the argot and ways of the East Indian commmunity in T & T, and captures the foolishness, greed, and ridiculous caste and caste striving. All of this is done in manner that preserves the real humanity of everyone involved. This is so much fun!
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book defines "engaging" March 9 2002
By greglor
This book defines "engaging". Though I have never been to Trinidad, I now feel like I've spent significant time there. Using very few words, Naipaul paints a portrait of what poverty in Trinidad looked like, emotionally, economically and socially. He also takes a protagonist who seems very harsh and abrasive at first, and makes him into a sympathetic character. We grow as he does. I've seldom read books that have made me able to so fully climb into the skin of a character, but this one does it. You feel his anguish, and understand his few joys. All of this is done with a very economical use of words. This is truly one of the best books I've ever read. I can't reccommend it enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I can't-- March 5 2002
By asphlex
Despite the tears, nobody ever says this thoughout this long, fascinating book. A story of generations, of family dispute and disparity, A House For Mr. Biswas is a stirring, masterful dispiction of life going on. It tells of one man's humble independance that he keeps private, not realizing how such subtle virtue affects those he comes in contact with.
Never dull, always anticipatory, one of the greatest books ever written--
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Work For Me (middle-class, white, male American)
You can click on my "about me" icon and see that I don't shy away from heavier literature. And I really, really wanted this novel to work for me. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2002 by Stacey Cochran
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good, Slowly Engaging Read
This was VS Naipaul's break-out book, although it took a few years for it to really take off, first in England, and then everywhere else. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2002 by Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars A portrait of rural Trinidad and one man's quiet struggle
A House For Mr. Biswas, the acclaimed novel by Nobel prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul, reads like an epic and is clearly the work of an accomplished writer. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2002 by Matthew Krichman
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Biswas, Homeless
A House for Mr. Biswas, is not so much the story of Mr. Biswas, but of the South Asian extended family - its turmoil, gossip, reunions and joys. Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2002 by "biblioscribe"
5.0 out of 5 stars mr. biswas
i went though an "indian author" stage and mr. biswas was one of my favorites...i could actually smell the deteriorating paint on the house, it's dreams, the human sweat... Read more
Published on Dec 30 2001 by "jojojo@netvision.net.il"
5.0 out of 5 stars Naipaul's Masterpiece
This book is deservedly regarded as the new Nobel laureate's masterpiece. It is tells the life story of Mr. Mohun Biswas, a Hindu born in rural Trinidad. Mr. Read more
Published on Dec 29 2001 by suetonius
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Biswas
Tragi-comedy about a funny little man and his war with his inlaws. Mr. Biswas finally achieves some personal satisfation by buying and living in his own home; even if he is only... Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2001 by "cmerrell"
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