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The Mystic Masseur

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,545 Ratings  ·  111 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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Aaron Becker
Jul 04, 2009 Aaron Becker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 17, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caribbean
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
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
Dec 06, 2014 J.C. rated it really liked it
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
Ashley Lowe
Jan 15, 2010 Ashley Lowe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 09, 2008 Ero rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-liberry
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.
Dec 29, 2010 Judy rated it liked it  ·  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
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

Vikrant Rana
Dec 22, 2014 Vikrant Rana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Shantanoo Desai
Aug 10, 2015 Shantanoo Desai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Naipaul is a genius when it comes to creating characters that have a very particular trait; being clueless. The protagonist Ganesh, is a baffled lad in Trinidad and tries his skills in quite a few stratas until life catches the right pace.
The plot is beautiful and filled with satire when it comes to the whole "Indian" thing. The sycophancy of his Father-in -law when he realizes his son-in-law made it big in life, his wife's lopsided nepotism and his close friends who seem to persuade him for wr
Dina Goluza
Jan 22, 2016 Dina Goluza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobelovci, 2014
Odavno me neka knjiga nije ovako nasmijala. Radnja se odvija na Trinidadu i opisuje se život Ganesha Ramsumaira koji od običnog nastavnika postaje čudesni maser.
Saznala sam mnogo interesantnih stvari kao:
- kad imaš mnogo novca onda možeš sebi priuštiti i da misliš;
- kada na Trinidadu žena napusti muža on joj treba poslati poruku "Pseto, kako si?" ili "Mačko, kako si?" :)
Francis Bruynseels
In this book you can sense a great writer discovering his craft. About half of the book is as good as anything else he has ever written, which is pretty good and regularly funny. The other half is a fascinating set of false starts and slight misses, with an unnecessary profusion of characters. Thoroughly recommended.
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

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

I feel lucky that I started my acquaintance with this writer through his first book, 'The Mystic Masseur' (1957) which is rather simple & approachable.
I think if you plan to read a writer's entire oeuvre then it's better to read them in a chronological order so as to enjoy more the gradual evolution of their worldview/artistic v
Dec 30, 2008 Rick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Clive Thompson
Jul 13, 2013 Clive Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 " 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
Sep 26, 2008 Jared rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Ramona Chanderballi
This is one of the books I've re-read just for the pure pleasure of being lost in it's pages. It's quite an intriguing story of how differently our life paths can go. The protagonist-like all West Indian children growing up-envisions his life for the most part, as coming out of the small world poverty has left him in and indirectly surpassing his father. What he didn't expect was the number of trials and errors he was about to face to get there. Naipaul vividly describes Caribbean life in all of ...more
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
Apr 22, 2016 Joshua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book four or five times now, once in graduate school, once (at least) for pleasure, and twice in classes I've taught myself. Each time I read it, I'm blown away by the razor-edge satire, the deceptively simple narrative voice, and his impeccable ear for dialogue. V.S. Naipaul was a master storyteller, capable of capturing a character in a quick sentence or two, and making them live in your memory forever. As his earliest novel (not counting Miguel Street, which is a collection of ...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
Daniel Polansky
the story of a country Indian of second-rate intellect who, through genial good-humor and a serious of fortunate coincidences becomes renowned as a mystic healer and later as a political representative in post-colonial India, Naipaul's first novel is hysterically funny and vividly cruel. Naipaul is the essential misanthrope, a cultural chameleon who seems to find very little to like anywhere he visits, from Indonesia to India to Alabama. But he clearly reserves a special contempt for Trinadad, h ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Ubiqua rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2007 Malbadeen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny
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.
Apr 02, 2016 Rhys rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Naipaul's second book but first novel is a comedy set in Trinidad. The tone and style are similar to the short stories of Miguel Street but the action is paced less frantically. Ganesh is the mystic masseur of the title and essentially this is his rags to riches story, an account that is sweet and bitter at the same time. The characters that occupy the book are difficult not to like, even when their behaviour leaves a lot to be desired. Ganesh is really a rather dubious personage but we are root ...more
Eve Kay
Mar 01, 2016 Eve Kay rated it liked it
The book started with a strong four-star rating: It was funny, witty, insightful and captivating. Got my attention and I wanted to know what else it had to offer.
The rest of the book did not suck by all means, but let's just say it got tame. It got somehow watered down and wasn't as exciting as expected by the first seventy pages.
The characters mainly got repetetive and they weren't as funny as in the beginning. Also, somehow I felt that not enough new characters were introduced during the book
Dec 15, 2015 Rocío rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
(Relectura. CARBONE TE ODIO. Bueh mentira pero odio este libro.)
I like the movie The Guru and this novel is dancing on the same tune.
Ganesh is an Hindu in Trinidad. He has a better education than most, but also a tendency of being self indulgence. By the help of some "disinterested" friends and wife he establishes himself as a masseur first, then as a mystic. He cures almost all the island using a mix of psychology and phony rituals. He gains power and respect and lots, lots of money. The final moves is almost mandatory, and Ganesh jumps into politics.
The s
Jan 16, 2009 Sht1397 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2009 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 about V.S. Naipaul...

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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.”
“doing many more things until it seemed that ritual had replaced grief.” 2 likes
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