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The Mystic Masseur

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  1,289 ratings  ·  87 reviews
In this slyly funny and lavishly inventive novel–his first–V. S. Naipaul traces the unlikely career of Ganesh Ramsumair, a failed schoolteacher and impecunious village masseur who in time becomes a revered mystic, a thriving entrepreneur, and the most beloved politician in Trinidad. To understand a little better, one has to realize that in the 1940s masseurs were the islan ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 8th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1957)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,062)
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Paul
Naipaul's first novel; a comic satire set in the Indian community on Trinidad in the 1930s and 1940s. Ganesh Ramsumair stumbles through life and marraige and into the masseur of the titile, quite by accident. His political career is also entirely accidental.There is a splendid cast of colourful characters and thr comice and slaprtick element is high. There is also an undernote of satire. The characters have been described as Dickensian, however I felt that there was just a touch of P G Wodehouse ...more
Aaron Becker
The Mystic Masseur is more subtle in its social criticism than I had come to expect from Naipaul's semi-autobiographical works and collected essays. The author does not break narrative to make explicit commentary about Indian culture in Trinidad, but the characters that populate this novel represent types that undeniably speak of the cultural experience of Indians living in Trinidad. Naipaul's portraits aren't unequivocally positive, or negative for that matter. They're starkly realistic, and wh ...more
Bhargavi Balachandran


I can't remember chuckling so much reading any book in the last few months.. Mystic Masseur by V.S Naipaul is one of the finest comic capers i have laid my eyes upon.It is the story of the rise of Ganesh Ramasumair,a failed Primary school teacher and struggling masseur to a writer ,mystic and finally a MBE(Member of executive council) in Trinidad.The book is written in the strangely hilarious English spoken by the Trinidadian people and is set in Colonial Trinidad. Sample some of the rioutous se
...more
J.C.
I don't really know anything much about Trinidad, but I did enjoy this book and found it interesting in terms of insight into that society (or at least the book's interpretation of that society) during the 30's and 40's. The book is of course funny, as it is an effective satire of a society caught between oral and written culture, western civilization just cutting through. The protagonist rides this wave almost by force, taking the opportunity and rides it to the end. There can be an argument ma ...more
Judy
Dec 29, 2010 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Naipaul
Shelves: books-from-1957

This is Naipaul's first novel, which I found at my local library in a volume of his first three novels. Apparently Naipaul has had two phases in his writing: an early comic vision of which The Mystic Masseur is an example and a later disturbing darker period.

V S Naipaul was born in Trinidad, an island in the Caribbean, to which his grandfather had come from India. The island is a polyglot of races, nationalities and languages and has been ruled by various European nations since the 15th centu
...more
Ero
Wonderfully written, with a dickensian flair for satire. At the end however I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth-- it's clear that the author didn't really like any of his characters very much. No hope for redemption. Understanding without empathy-- just exceedingly skilled mockery. Sort of a disappointment. But as the craft of writing goes this is pretty exemplary.
Ashley Lowe
I am torn between anywhere from 2 to 5 stars on this book. It reads really quickly, especially in the first half. I read 100 pages on Wednesday and could hardly put it down and was so excited to give it a 5 star review and recommend it to everyone. Then Thursday came and I read the remaining 100 pages but struggled a little more and didn't feel nearly as into it.

It's absolutely wonderful as a description of the life of Indians in Trinidad, who were sent there as indentured servants after the U.
...more
Sally Tarbox
'He was to be famous and honoured throughout the South Caribbean', 5 Dec 2014

This review is from: The Mystic Masseur (Paperback)
Didn't enjoy this as much as Naipaul's superb 'A House for Mr Biswas' but it's an entertaining read, following the rise of Ganesh Ramsumair. Set in the Trinidad of the 30s and 40s, Ganesh is a mediocre student and teacher. When he comes home to his father's funeral, he lapses into a life of inactivity...and accumulating books:
"Nine hundred and thirty book. Every book a
...more
Ubiqua
Esordio del premio Nobel Naipaul, Il massaggiatore mistico è la cronaca delle vicissitudini di un membro della comunità indù di Trinidad. Cronaca del quotidiano in un mondo isolano e isolato, il romanzo è costituito per lo più dal chiacchiericcio di fondo delle piccole meschinità paesane. L’intento primario è satirico e non intende restituire un ritratto luminoso dell’ambiente d’origine dell’autore, la cui prosa soporifera fatica a sostenere l’operazione. Si parla del protagonista Ganesh, che do ...more
Malbadeen
The dialogue is so hilarious and the language so endearing that I kept finding myself reading it outloud or wishing someone was reading it to me. I wanted to know more about every character, couldn't wait to spy on them again and find out what they would say or do next. Did I mention I LOVED the characters? I would give ths 5 stars but for the lackluster ending.
Praveen Kumar
V.S Naipaul's first novel. The novel is set in the forties and fifties of the 20th century. During then, Trinidad and most of the surrounding islands were occupied by the British. Ganesh, who had studied his school education at his home town, were being sent to a nearby city to pursue his higher studies. There he was not very comfortable with his living conditions but he managed to do well at his studies.

He had some tryst with teaching profession but it was unsuccessful. When he returned to his
...more
Sht1397
Rating
This is charming novel and the first work by V.S Naipaul who was awarded the Nobel Prize for this book. Moreover, the movies was filmed in Trinidad and was released in 2001. It will be interesting to watch the movie too. I was impressed by Ganesh's success later in the novel

Recommendation : I would like to recommend this book for people who desire to succed in theier futre. This bokk describes well how someone can control their mind psychologically. If your mind is ver messy, it will absol
...more
Chris
I needed a book to read on the el as i rode down to the Metra board meeting the other day, and Gravity's Rainbow would not, under any circumstances, fit in my pocket, so i brought this book, recently purchased at Half Price Books (Niles) along with me.

My sister is a dedicated detractor of Naipaul based on her experience reading Guerrillas. I haven't read that book, but i did read A Bend in the River and agree with some of her reasons for disliking him: his nihilistic world view and general unple
...more
Mala

Review of 'The Mystic Masseur' by V.S.Naipaul
Shelf:Indian writer/Indian origin writer,Indian diaspora/post colonial lit/Carribean lit
Recommended for: Fans of Naipaul/realistic post colonial lit

Sir V.S.Naipaul has such a formiddable reputation,both as a scholarly writer & a curmudgeon,that readers/ppl are afraid to approach him(ask writer Paul Theroux!).

I feel lucky that i started my accquaintance with this writer through his first book 'The Mystic Masseur'(1957) which is rather simple &
...more
Neha
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rick
This is Naipaul’s first novel, published in 1957, an amusing, if snarky, little satire on life in the Hindu community of Trinidad. The comedy in the novel is in the contrast between the island’s backwater reality and its pretensions to quality. The protagonist is one Ganesh Ramsumair, the best educated member in his community. Ganesh fails at teaching, marries “well,” and removes to a small village where he establishes himself first as a masseur, then a mystic, then a politician. In between he w ...more
Antonio Nunez
The Mystic Masseur was Naipaul's first novel, and it is probably the best known of his works (a movie has been turned out by Messrs. Merchant & Ivory). The main character is one Ganesh Ramsumair, the son of an Indian immigrant to Trinidad, who seems to be blessed by fortune. Each time he is in danger of taking a wrong turn, his fate steps in and gently nudges him in the right direction. Ganesh first attends school in Port of Spain, where he feels inadequate and has only one friend, clever an ...more
Clive Thompson
This book got to me for a number of reasons, got to me for mainly good reasons. Firstly though, it is described, on the rear cover, as "...one of the authors finest comic creations....." I find the book humorous on times but this is not a belly laughter book - and presumably not meant to be either - but the characters certainly do have a comic nature. In this way it reminded me of Stella Gibbon's novel, "Cold Comfort Farm" which was written in 1932 and I described as "Slowing you down to the spe ...more
Jared
This is one of those quirky little books that is in its own category. This isn't to say that it is a masterpeice, but as a first novel, it definitely makes me want to read more from the author.

I loved the attempt at regional dialect, but it does conflict at times with the authors sense of humor (which, when clear, is quite good) and the flow of the story.

Also, I have read that Naipaul has been attacked by critics for displaying the poor in a negative manner. In this book it is apparent that the
...more
Niles Stanley
For the first 4/5ths of this book, it's just a sort of Dickensian tale of a young Hindu man in Trinidad entering adulthood and exploring his world, both spiritual and physical, through a host of eccentric characters that speak in the charming, simplistic island dialect. Once you start to hit the end of the book, you realize that there is more to the story, and it becomes slightly autobiographical, explaining how Naipaul arrived at his current set of beliefs regarding religion, poverty, war, and ...more
Jasmin Mohd-zain
The story is simple and the history of indians in Trinidad is embedded in it.

A good satire which was absorbing the in the first half of the book.
However became a bit of a drag the second half and a curt dissappointing ending at the end.

Ganesh metamorph as his country Trinidad change. What he despised of in the beginning finally
caught up with him in the end as G. Ramsay Muir, ESQ

Jayne Charles
This was a tale of naked ambition and casual wife-beating amongst Trinidad's Indian community in the 1940s. Written as a comedy, it didn't really raise any belly-laughs with me, but I suspect if I knew more about Trinidad, and Indian culture in that country, I would have regarded it as a brilliant satire. I also suspect some profound points were being made about religion and politics but allegory usually goes right over my head. The characters aren't terribly likeable; notably the main character ...more
Vikrant Rana
Spoiler Alert
This is raw Naipaul much before the Indian trilogy, and before he polished all those edges of a genius. The book is about Providence, the meteoric rise of a teacher turned Masseur turned Mystic turned politician and finally into a brown English Sahib. This metamorphosis is fantastic, unapologetic except right at the very end, and destined. Good stuff!
Sherri
I wanted to get a sense of life in Trinidad before our upcoming vacation in May 2008, and VS Naipul is one of Trinidad's famed author's. This tale follows the life and times of Ganesh Ramsumair from his humble beginnings, to schoolteacher, to masseur - and well, I'm that far. He takes a wife, loses his wife, and gets her back again. He fights with his father in law a lot. All the while, we get a well drawn portrait of village life in Trinidad, the economic and racial spectrum of the island, the ...more
Leopold Bienkowski-gibbs
I realize this book was published in 1957 I think, but there were some parts that were just disturbing--not because they were graphic, but because they were mentioned so casually. Like threatening and beating your wife as normal part of marriage. And "Niggergram" to refer to the gossip network in Trinidad. Why did this book win a Nobel Prize? This might be another case that I'm missing a critical context or element of this book that but if there is, I clearly don't get it. But then, I know very ...more
Jenny Thompson
I thought it was a funny, enjoyable read. Ganesh was an interesting protagonist, and it was entertaining to observe the twists and turns his life took.
Radhika
A story of Ganesh Ramsumair a failed school teacher, who becomes a village masseur. In time he is believed to be a revered mystic. Opportunity gets him to become a revered poltician and thriving entreprenuer in Trinindad. In the 1940's the masseurs were revered as medical practitioners in Trinidad.
Leela the wife of Ganesh Ramsumair is excessively fond of punctuation marks, since she is one of the few girls who went to school in that generation. Leela father Ramalogan a man of extreme mood change
...more
Priya
Charming, silly and so funny. It took me a while, and some recollecting, after I'd read the book to figure out just how much I liked it! It's the sort of book I would have dismissed as just another breezy, pointless read, had I not given it some thought.
Surprisingly, the strange language, a local version of English with its own very precise grammar, was the thing I loved the most. At one point, someone said "mischeevyus" and I just had to laugh! It's brilliant, how the author has managed to mak
...more
Ginette
Perhaps I didn't understand a thing but I couldn't finish it. neither the characters nor the story nor the settings were worth of reading to me. I stopped a little after mid book.
Tanuj Solanki
Naipaul creates a comic system full of characters mired in their petty motives, and lets it loose. The result is a funny read.

The refinery of the dialect, the technique of creating a sel-sustaining sytem, and the realization of tragedy as a greater force than out and out comedy -- add these three to The Mystic Masseur and you get very close to Naipaul's first masterpiece in 'The House of Biswas'. For Naipaul afficionadoes Massuer is a must read because not only does it do fairly well as a novel
...more
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi
...more
More about V.S. Naipaul...
A House for Mr Biswas A Bend in the River Half a Life Miguel Street In a Free State

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“Ah, sahib. I know you just come to comfort a old man left to live by hisself. Soomintra say I too old-fashion. And Leela, she always by you. Why you don’t sit down, sahib? It ain’t dirty. Is just how it does look.’
Ganesh didn’t sit down. ‘Ramlogan, I come to buy over your taxis.”
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“doing many more things until it seemed that ritual had replaced grief.” 2 likes
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