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A House for Mr Biswas

Having read V S Naipauls A Million Mutinies Now (a epic travelogue for its sheer scope and detailing) and An Area of Darkness (a scathing description of postIndependence India), one knows that whether one chooses to agree or not with his provocative, highl opinionated views, theres never a dull !o!ent around his writings" a !a#or asset for an author$ %or a long ti!e now one has &een hearing a&out A House for Mr Biswas&eing undou&tedl his &est work$ Also, since ' had onl read his non(fictional works there was a certain curiosit to read his fiction work$ )f course, A House For Mr Biswas is not wholl fiction and &orrows a lot fro! Naipauls own life$ *he central character of Mr Biswas is &ased on the life of Naipaul+s father, and the novel tracks his life fro! &irth to death$ ,ight since he is &orn he is considered a &ad o!en for the fa!il $ B a -uirk of fate the prediction does co!e true with Biswas father getting drowned while tr ing to save hi!$ *he fa!il goes through ver tr ing ti!es, even as his !other Bipti appears totall detached and keeps whining all the ti!e$ Biswas is often sent to his wealth aunts place, where he does odd #o&s for the fa!il $ Biswas loves the a!&ience there and drea!s of &eing a&le to afford the sa!e lifest le so!eda $ His ha!other tries to keep finding sche!es so t that his !other finds to get hi! +settled+ " one of the! has hi! as an apprentice to a !ean(!inded .undit (this whole episode is hilarious as much as it is ironic) " ends up frustrating Mr Biswas even further$ *hat+s when Biswas+ life takes another dra!atic turn$ A har!less &it of flirting with his e!plo er+s daughter plunges hi! straight into !arriage$ Biswas is not prepared, &ut his in(laws, the affectionate et fir! Mrs *ulsi and her co!!anding son(in(law, insist on the !atch$ *his, even though Biswas is penniless$ He !oves in with the *ulsis " a -ueer, nois e/tended fa!il where the *ulsi daughters are welco!ed to sta with their hus&ands and children$ Since !ost of the son(in(laws are not ver well(to(do, the are e!plo ed either in one of the fa!il s shops or fields$ Mr Biswas is enraged seeing that he has to follow the rules set & his wifes fa!il $ He a&hors the tasteless food the serve, helplessl cri&&ing that it ruins his sto!ach and in general leaves no opportunit to deride the! or pick up fights with the elders$ *he fa!il is !ore often than not patient with hi!, tr ing to &u peace & giving hi! a fresh opportunit $ Man a ti!es, Mr Biswas gets so outraged & the fa!il that he !oves out, onl to face hardships outside and return &ack defeated$ He finds scant support fro! his wife who is practical a&out their financial condition and sta s put at her !others place with her kids$ *he onl ti!e Mr Biswas life looks up is when he lands a #o& as a #ourno at the Sentinel$ *ired of the *ulsis, he atte!pts to &uild a house of his own at least on two occasions$ But alwa s short of cash and saddled with a !illion trou&les alwa s, he ends up !aking a !ish(!ash of it each ti!e and lands right &ack with the *ulsis$ However, Mr Biswas does !anage a house of his own towards the end and nothing

gives hi! !ore happiness than to live in a place where he doesnt have to &e inde&ted to the *ulsis$ Strangel , Biswas finds !ore peace and cheer in the last few ears of his life (with his son Anand and Savi) than he ever gets in his lifeti!e$ *he novel is a !arvel in character creation and Naipauls a&ilit to penetrate through hu!an ps che and proclivit with such searing candor !akes A House For Mr Biswas an i!!ensel rich work$ *he description of the *usli fa!il with its varied and colourful characters is especiall ingenious$ Also, the novel can &e read on a nu!&er of levels$ 0ven without an special e!phasis on its historical conte/t, it still holds true as a novel a&out frustration and tragic vulnera&ilit that lies at the core of all hu!an e/istence$ *he su&te/t is never overt, &ut its possi&le to read the *ulsi House as a s !&ol of colonialis!$ *rinidad was under British rule and Naipaul could possi&l &e driving ho!e the point a&out how restrictive and controlled such living could &e$ Mr Biswas constant failure with ever new endeavour hints towards the ill(preparedness of the *rinidadian populace when left on their own$ 1ithout ade-uate training or e/perience, Biswas is alwa s clueless$ 2et, reading A House For Mr Biswas can &e e/hausting, for the tediu! it &rings at several points$ *he novel is too long, too repetitive$ *he sa!e things keep happening to Mr Biswas all through the novel$ 'n addition to that, the overl discriptive st le of the &ook tends to tire ou out$ But then again, there+s another wa of looking at the novel$ *he &ook !oves at snail+s pace , &ut so does Mr Biswas+ own life that refuses to take off$ So!ewhere in the tediu! felt & the reader lies Mr Biswas+ own frustration at seeing his life languishing$ Naipaul+s su&#ect !atter is gri! &ut the author+s trade!ark dark hu!our and ironic wit ensures that A House for Mr Biswas re!ains as entertaining, as it is enriching$