A House for Mr Biswas
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A House for Mr Biswas

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  9,641 ratings  ·  439 reviews
Mohun Biswas has spent his 46 years of life striving for independence. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning of his father, he yearns for a place he can call home. He marries into the Tulsi family, on whom he becomes dependent, but rebels and takes on a succession of occupations in a struggle to weaken their hold over him."
Paperback, 623 pages
Published 2003 by Picador (first published 1961)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul
Dec 12, 2011 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: someone who's already decided to read it
Shelves: novels
This one might make you pull your hair out. So if you're already bald you may need to read it wearing a wig. Also, you need a magnifying glass to find the plot. I had to take samples & send them off to a lab. Apparently there are detectable traces of story in here. But not so's you'd notice.

No.

The whole thing is a slow, ponderous crawl through the life of a Mr Third World Nobody who gets married by accident and appears to have four kids also by accident, without having any sex as far as I co...more
Rebecca
A life, from start to finish.

This is a book for adults--people who have struggled continually to figure out how to live their lives, people who have dealt with the opposing forces of obligation to family and the desire for independence.

It's not a page-turner--and I admire that. There are satisfactions to be found in reading besides wanting to know what happens--the ever-changing balance of power in families; the slight accidents that change lives forever; the mulled-over decisions which change...more
Bloom
Have you ever gone for a book, one heralded as a classic no less, only to find yourself fighting with it, page after page, trying to stave off sleep, all in the hope something, anything will take shape that makes it all worth while?

Of course you have, so you perhaps you can commiserate with my experience with A House for Mr Biswas, an unfortunate slog if there ever was one. Night after night I dove in, hopeful to roll into a breakthrough moment (similar to the one I had in Atonement or Sons and...more
Praj
There it is, a modest roofed structure in Sikkim Street standing tall amid the perfumed beds of anthurium lilies. New memories of wet earth after the rain, freshly painted picket fences, the sweet flowers of laburnum tree, mixed aromas flouncing through the warm rooms and wind whiffing through the trees telescoping the painful past. A sense of belonging cherished with merited identity-Mr. Mohun Biswas’s house.

I shy away from the postcolonial contemporary third world fiction. Most of them overwhe...more
Ben Thurley
A hugely enjoyable, though simultaneously excruciating, novel. Naipaul has created a character in Mohun Biswas who is, at once, deeply unsympathetic – prone to minor spites, absurd self-regard, and the petty enactment of drawn-out and demeaning grudges against those nearest to him –but whose struggle to assert his independence, identity and worth against the odds (even against the fate outlined for him at birth) is utterly compelling.

The descriptions of family life, of community, and of the nat...more
Chrissie
Only pick this book up if you wish to slog through more than 600 pages filled with the bickering, moans and wailing of a large Indo-Trinidadian family. A Nobel Prize winner that disappoints. The plot is minimal, and the humor not to my taste. It bored me to such an extent that I have no desire to more fully explain. When a book is this boring there is just nothing to say.

After 144 pages: On the back cover Newsweek and Anthony Burgess speak of the book's "comic insight and power". What are they...more
Tanuj Solanki
'The world is what it is,' and so is Trinidad

While Naipaul may seem to be copying the modality of the nineteenth century novel, his main intention here is to construct a self-propagating comic system (in a post-colonial set-up). And he succeeds marvelously in that. The Naipaul system: layered through family, religion, poverty, national identity issues, third-world-ism, third-world journalism and, last but not the least, third-world individuality, is a triumph of twentieth century literature. Inc...more
Book'd
Aug 16, 2013 Book'd rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Only Patient readers!
Shelves: 2012, indian-lit
This book does a quite a fair job in yelling out to its readers why owning a house for many mostly remains just a dream. If you have a dream of maybe finding that diamond in the coal mines, or traveling to moon or mars or walking around the world, you might still achieve those, or hope to. But if you dream about owning a house, you might as well just dream.

It is not just inexhaustibly difficult today but was nearly equally impossible even in those days when people earned $10/month(as Mr. Biswas...more
Judy


V S Naipaul's fourth novel is his longest so far. Still mining the Trinidadian Indian Hindu community amid which he grew up, the locations, people, traditions, the Pundits and the strivers, the remnants of the Indian caste system, are all in play. Having read all four books, I swear I feel as though I know these people well.

This is a more somber book. Some humor remains but it felt as though Naipaul's affection for his people had waned. The story covers the entire life of Mr Biswas from his birt...more
Sonia Gomes
All that Mr. Biswas wants is respect, not money, not love, not recognition just respect……
Born in Trinidad in a poor home he is tricked into marrying Shama Tulsi daughter of the well known, very rich Tulsi House, all because he had had the temerity to write ‘I love you’ on a scrap of paper and hand it over to her. Although warned by many he persists in marrying her.
Everyone knows that the Tulsis are on lookout for drones for their daughters, once married the husbands become their property. They...more
Chad Bearden
"Biswas" is my kind of novel. Some complain that it is a bit meandering and aimless, and this is true to an extent. But what the book aims to accomplish (I suspect) is not to give the reader some nice and tidy story with a beginning, middle, and end. Naipaul is aiming for something far more epic: to describe a man's life. He literally starts with Biswas's birth and tracks this willful, sad, cocky man's life all the way to his death. The fact that Biswas's life is full of the mundane does not mak...more
Dawsmarkaol.com
I read this book when I was about 30. This book is really for a very mature audience, for people who have experienced life. The main character is mercurial in a sense. We all at some point in our lives become anxious with life, that we should be more than what we turned out to be. For some people, this is an obsession. When we hit mid-life, there's an urgency to achieve what we dreamed of when we were younger but never achieved. For Mr. Biswas, since there is no way he will be anything more, a h...more
Preeta
May 06, 2007 Preeta rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like South Asian diaspora literature and flinty prose.
The Trinidadian-English dialogue is just brilliant, and the people are all so tragic and hilarious at the same time, and Mr. Biswas is called Mr. Biswas from the time he is BORN. How can you beat that? Even if you think Naipaul's politics stink, there's no denying this book is a masterpiece.
Alan
This, my first Naipaul, and probably his best, though no more hilarious than Miguel Street. Many of his later books are non-fiction, like Among the Believers, A Tour in the South, or even The Loss of El Dorado. Here, Hanuman House is everybody's nightmare mother-in-law's. The name evokes the Hindu god of war, a common stereotype of the mother-in-law made new in its witty application to the family home. Since Hanuman House holds all the in-laws, including brothers-in-law and Biswas' wife's nieces...more
Simon Mcleish


Like A Bend in the River, a large part of A House for Mr Biswas is about the search for roots in the post-colonial world. 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. He is poor but of high caste, and this gives him strange relationships with the people around him, especially when he marries into the Tulsi family, rich but of low caste and trying not to beco...more
Scott
This if the fourth Naipaul I have read, and it is probably my least favourite. Which is somewhat surprising, since this is one of the books usually listed as among his best.

I did like it. The characters are fun and engaging. The story kept me interested, and I read the book every chance I got.

But it did have some flaws. 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. His m...more
Rick
This is the last book I anticipate finishing in 2012 andit required more then a bit of effort but in the end I am glad I took the time to read this 560 page narrative about life in the Indian colony living in Trinidad in the years immediately before and after World War II. Mr Biswas is modeled after Naipaul's own father and he is an interesting character. An agnostic Hindu he struggles through out his life to earn a living and a life while living withby his wife's relative's the Tulsi clan.
Bisw...more
Johnny D

Knowing virtually nothing about this book before I opened it, it took me some time to adjust to it. You see, this is not a drama or an adventure, it is the story of one man’s life. Once I became used to the idea that this book would not have a traditional plot, that it was a darkly humourous take on the life of the “little man”, I was immediately engrossed. Mr. Biswas is an unlikeable chap. He repeatedly embarrasses himself, he is weak, he is temperamental, he strikes out irrationally at those c...more
Sandhya
Having read V S Naipaul’s A Million Mutinies Now (a epic travelogue for its sheer scope and detailing) and An Area of Darkness (an unforgiving, somewhat crude description of post-Independence India), one surmises that whether one chooses to agree or not with his highly provocative, opinionated views, there’s never a dull moment around his writings – a major asset for any author. Also, Naipaul very successfully manages to articulate his thoughts in simple, lucid language, and yet dazzles you with...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Ok, I've spent over 4 days with this and am nearly halfway, but I'm going to cut my losses. I was hoping for something more like A Fine Balance, and since Naipaul has won a few awards, including the Nobel, I thought I could expect something more than what it is.

I just looked at a couple of reviews (both a 4-star and a 2-star) and it just isn't going to get better. I've said many times that I really like my life, but it isn't very interesting in the retelling. This was the story of the life of M...more
Saurabh Sharma
VS Naipaul's epic masterpiece 'A House for Mr Biswas' is a gripping read that tells the story of Mr. Biswas' struggle to make a mark on the world and to build a home he can call his own. A House for Mr. Biswas is a tragic comedy that though told in a comical way is poignant and sad in its detail. The story is a comment on the human state, depicting the constant battle that is life, a battle against circumstances, against preset hierarchies and systems, a battle for survival and for free will and...more
Rob Manwaring
Age, apparently confers wisdom. In my case, this sometimes happens. As a young, foolish young under-graduate I could not understand why the scholarly and genuinely quite brilliant Mr R G Barnes would wish to study and read 'post-colonial' literature. It is, after only after 15 years or so I see the attraction. I praise your visionary fore-sight, Mr Barnes. That pre-amble aside, just started reading this, and enjoying it a lot.

Finished this in the run up to Christmas, and I have to say, as a nov...more
Aaron
Mar 23, 2007 Aaron rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Living legend V.S. Naipaul's masterpiece. This anti-bildungsroman traces the protagonist (supposedly based on Naipaul's father) from being "born wrong" to his tragic but timely death. The sweep and detail of the novel will amaze you, but it's not for the faint-of-heart: Mohun Biswas is not a likeable character, and the circumstances of his life (post-colonial Trinidad) are difficult. Put aside your judgements of him and let yourself get caught up in the story. You won't be disappointed.
William
Fun fact: "The origins of the James Bond theme are disputed. Mr. Norman [Barry's biographer] said that Barry brushed off a musical passage from “Bad Sign, Good Sign,” a song he had written for a musical version of the V. S. Naipaul novel A House for Mr. Biswas. With a few adjustments, it became the theme to Dr. No." John Barry's obit, NYT, 2-2-11
Heather Moore
I had the greatest connection with what Mr. Biswas was going through. It helped me to find peace with the truth that what is perfect for one person does not actually have to be perfect, it just has to be theirs.
Erin
In short, Mr. Biswas begins his life tragically. It is foretold that he will destroy his father which accidentally comes to pass. His whole life is spent moving through his Trinidadian world trying to gain independence by acquiring a home of his own. This is thwarted by his inadvertent marriage to a girl whose family has wealth. Things do not go well as he is adopted into this family. His conflict with the matriarch lead him to take his wife and child to a small hovel where he owns a unsuccessfu...more
Ryan
Long.

Boring.

This is a book that I have had for the longest time, purchased about 3 years ago, knowing that Naipaul was one of my old professor's favorite writers. Plus I saw that "House" was a big part of him winning the Nobel for Literature, reaching way back when. But whenever I felt like starting a new book, this 600 page family epic about a house didn't really tickle my pickle. (That's poetry for you.)

I would give this two stars if it wasn't so massive and ambitious, complete and detailed...more
Richard
This was the second time I have read House for Mr Biswas. The first was for my English A' Level in 1981-2, the second in 2012.

I remember my first experience as a teenager being totally engrossed in this character Mohun that Naipaul had created. Tragic, comedic and the novel being a bit confusing at times getting to grips with the number of characters involved in this story.

At the age of 48 I had another read and the perspective is of course very different.

I think above all this is a very human...more
Cbj
It is a painful book to read. Because a lot of the things Naipaul has written about has happened in your own family or household. Or in your street. It is so brutally honest that you wonder how Naipaul could write about his own father and his childhood with such vicious humor that almost seems to border on cruelty. There is no magic realism and there are no upper class Syrian Christian women sleeping around in the woods with well toned lower caste Hindu men. It is a book about a terribly wounded...more
Mohmed Abd el salam

" العبث ليس كامنا في الإنسان ولا في العالم إذا ما فكرنا في كل منهما بمعزل عن الأخر .. إنه جزء لا انفصام له عن الظرف البشري ، ليس مجرد فكرة مجردة ، وإنما يتكشف لنا يوميا في استنارة باعثة على الحزن "
( جان بول سارتر )

الرواية تفاصيل معاناة إنسان سيئ الحظ ، إنسان فشل في فهم ومسايرة منطق الحياة الذي يرنو إلى العبث ، يعيش أيامه مطاردا من قسوة الفقر وسوء الحظ ، يحاصره شعور بأن انسانياته مكبلة وأنه عاجز عن إختيار طريقه ، لم يختار ان يأتي إلى الدنيا ، لم يختار أن يتزوج ، لم يختار أن ينجب أربعة أطفال .....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...
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“He read political books. They gave him phrases which he could only speak to himself and use on Shama. They also revealed one region after another of misery and injustice and left him feeling more helpless and more isolated than ever. Then it was that he discovered the solace of Dickens. Without difficulty he transferred characters and settings to people and places he knew. In the grotesques of Dickens everything he feared and suffered from was ridiculed and diminished, so that his own anger, his own contempt became unnecessary, and he was given strength to bear the most difficult part of his day: dressing in the morning, that daily affirmation of faith in oneself, which at times for him was almost like an act of sacrifice.” 10 likes
“Some lesser husbands built a latrine on the hillside.” 3 likes
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