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V.S. Naipaul – A House for Mr. Biswas

January 29, 2010

I somehow wound up reading A House for Mr. Biswas and listening to a (stupendous!) recording of David Copperfield at the same time, which is a truly interesting experience that I’d never try to repeat.  I finished the Naipaul first.  It belongs in the category of “people with highly objectionable ideas can create great art,” which, incidentally, is right where conventional wisdom appears to have placed it.  It is, true to title, a story about the unlucky, determinedly unhappy Mohun Biswas and his search for both a house of his own and a family to put in it.  The reader knows in advance that this quest is not going to end terribly well, but remains in constant tension about how tragic or comic this resolution will be.  Because almost none of its squabbling characters appear likable, they all become so, especially our protagonist.

I was startled at about 3/4 of the way through to see a magnificent post by Lydia Kiesling go up at The Millions that came very close to pinning my reaction.

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