A House for Mr. Biswas: A Dark Humor with ironic wit by V S Naipaul

This is not a drama or an adventure; it is the story of one man’s life and his struggle in quest of respect and success.

Mr. Mohun Biswas, the protagonist here is born in a poor Indian family at rural Trinidad and is considered as a cursed child who brings that curse upon his family. Later at adolescent age he gets trapped in marriage by powerful Tulsi Hindu Family. And the rest of the novel is set within the dynamics of this family. This is based somewhat on the experiences of Naipaul’s own father and his in-laws, which ignited his thirst for overall subjective emotional evaluation of his worth. To get rid of his wife’s family, Mr. Biswas made various attempts for building his own house and always backfired due to lack of money, lack of planning and destiny.
It’s a journey of a man from his infant to declining years, passed thru several phases of life, trying to achieve pride, struggling to have a meaningful life, making his children listen their father, adjusting with a silent and not so beloved wife, managing with mother in law and her two godlike sons. Mr. Biswas is a fusion of generous, resentful, selfish, intelligent, ignorant and ambitious characteristics.

This book is really for a very mature audience, for people who have experienced life. The main character is impulsive in a sense. Mohun Biswas spends his entire life looking for a place to live which feels like his own, something which is already complicated by his place in the large Indian community in Trinidad.

Trying to be Dickensian, there is too much going on. Too many characters, too many subplots, too many episodes of the plot that make the same points and delay developments. But then again, there’s another way of looking at the novel. Narrative moves at unhurried pace , but so does Mr Biswas’ own life that refuses to take off. Somewhere in the boredom felt by the reader lays Mr Biswas’ own frustration at seeing his life flagging.
Naipaul’s subject matter is grim but the author’s trademark dark humour and ironic wit ensures that A House for Mr Biswas remains as entertaining, as it is enriching

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