“Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head”: Me on VS Naipaul

at Acculturated:

From Gothic novels to indie-rock lyrics, the house is a mirror of the troubled family within it. V.S. Naipaul’s 1961 novel A House for Mr Biswas is another one of these broken-home narratives; the Trinidadian novelist presents a surprisingly moving satire of arranged marriage and thwarted ambition.

Mohun Biswas—always referred to by the narrator as “Mr Biswas,” even while he’s still a baby—lives in a makeshift, repurposed, patched and jerry-built world. Every surface is described so we can see how the paint peels and the pillars sway. He marries very young and accidentally, to an equally unprepared girl named Shama. Shama is part of a huge, pushy family who enclose and support the young couple in spite of Mr Biswas’s many rebellions against them. You understand exactly why he hates them, even as you’re noticing how often they bail him out of financial jams without receiving any thanks. Mr Biswas is a fractious, sarcastic soul, and his furious struggle against the ongoing defeat of his life gives the novel its Waughian flavor.

His greatest dream is to have his own house, and from the opening pages of the novel we know that he will succeed—sort of.

more–I really got a lot out of this book, and I think it works for the marriage-novels series in unexpected ways.

About Eve Tushnet

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