A House for Mr. Biswas

by V.S. Naipaul

O.K. First off, V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie have to stop copying each other. One overrated Indian writer is enough in this world, dontcha think? I know that's harsh, but c'mon, people! Can you tell the difference between Midnight's Children and A House for Mr. Biswas? Compare even just the first line of the blurbs, for crying out loud!

"Born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, at the precise moment of India's independence, [he] is celebrated in the press and welcomed by Prime Minister Nehru himself."
"Born the 'wrong way' and thrust into a world that greeted him with little more than a bad omen, [he] has spent forty-six years of life striving for independence."


In fairness, it must be Rushdie who has ripped off Naipaul, as the latter wrote his book nearly two decades before the former. Somebody should've looked into that before they awarded Rushdie the Booker of Bookers. There are all sorts of other similarities too: the main characters are ill-fated boys whose birth triggers calamity to their own fathers. These male writers and their "my-thing-is-bigger-than-your-thing" dick-waving competitions with their dads are getting tiresome to me. Also, the same names turn up in both books, with "Hanuman," for one, figuring prominently. (Yes, I know that's the Hindu monkey-God...but still.) And recall my commentary about A Bend in the River and the name similarities between it and Midnight's Children. They were written only two years apart—again with Rushdie ripping off Naipaul! I don't know folks...I think I'm on to something here...

O.K., so as to the plot of A House for Mr. Biswas, if I haven't dissuaded any of you from going ahead and reading it... The best way that I can describe what this book is about is to recall—or not recall, as the case may be—a quote I once read about people who live their lives sort of waiting for their lives to begin. Does that make sense? If you go around thinking: All I have to do is make it to next year and then my life will really begin, or when I get that new job then, or when I move to [fill-in-the-blank] then, etc. Anyway, the moral of the quote is that that waiting process—if that's what you should choose to do with your life—is life itself! If you follow any of that—and sorry I can't come up with the original source and text of that quote—Mr. Biswas is very much a character who unwittingly subscribes to the above fallacy in thinking. As a result, it is hard for the reader to have much sympathy for him or care much about what he does next. Even beyond that, he's not very likeable anyway. Boring. Not a great book. Not a great story. I didn't care for it.