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The Isolation of Mr. Biswas

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of V.S. Naipaul, the person. But, man, can that dude write.

The poetic nature of his writing reminds me a little of Fitzgerald. Here’s another beautiful passage from A House for Mr. Biswas:

“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.”

Naipaul really paints a picture of Biswas as a beaten, tired man: “He was given strength to bear the most difficult part of his day: dressing in the morning…”

He’s isolated, depressed, and prone to read political books—which, to me, would seem even more likely to make one feel isolated and depressed. I think I’d rather read instruction manuals for the rest of my life than read one political book. But not Mr. Biswas.

Anyway, the novel continues on. I’m getting close to finishing it (I promise!), and I’ll hopefully be reviewing it within the next week or so.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. letscommunicatechange #

    I liked the paragraph you pointed out. I read this book when I was 16 and it took me three months to pick it again and again to finish it. I will lie if I say I liked it. But it did linger in me – that feeling for Mr. Biswas and his misery. It still does 🙂


    January 22, 2015
  2. This has always been my favorite book of his–I don’t really like his other writing but I did read this in almost one sitting. And I does still linger in my mind even though it was years ago when I read it.


    January 22, 2015
  3. He reminds me of a favorite author of mine, Graham Greene.


    January 23, 2015
  4. TFM #

    I like this passage too, it’s nothing fancy and it just seems like a bit of effortless writing that happened to be powerful.


    February 2, 2015

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  1. Book #77: A House For Mr. Biswas | 101 Books

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