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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of Indentured Labourers' descendants, 16 May 2005
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This review is from: A House for Mr. Biswas (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) (Hardcover)
VS Naipaul's story of the struggle of a poor labourer's son growing up in early 19th century Trinidad is remarkable for its realism - something few people have pointed out, preferring instead to dwell on the oft mentioned tragi-comedy aspect of his writings. Those who come from similar backgrounds in the colonies will surely get the feeling of déjà-vu. For example, one of the things that you aspire to growing up on the islands is to have a house of your own some day, which is what the whole story is about.

Naipaul's trademark comedy permeates the novel - he starts right from the very begining by calling the 21-day old baby Mohun 'Mr. Biswas'. And the name sticks! However, the sense of pathos, gloom and pessimism that surrounds poor Indian immigrants is firmly established from the outset, never to leave the reader even during Mr. Biswas' happier days.

The full characterisation of the people orbiting around Mr. Biswas is left to the imagination of the reader, as Naipaul does not commit to paint the whole portrait of each one of them. The story, even though told by an outside narrator, is nevertheless told from Mr. Biswas' point of view. Therefore this fits Naipaul's characterisation of the 'others' as Mr. Biswas is not your deep, philosophical traditional hero. In fact, he is selfish, uncooperative, rebelious, and as some have said, a 'born loser'. Personally, I don't agree with the loser epithet - I think he is just a product of his background and of the times he is living. For each of the few descendants of indentured labourers who went on to achieve world-wide fame and wealth, there were hundreds of thousands who suffered the same fate as Mr. Biswas.
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