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House for Mr Biswas, A


a novel by V. S. Naipaul, published in 1961. Set against the backdrop of multiethnic Trinidad, it tells, in mock-epic mode, the story of the struggles of Mohun Biswas, a journalist of Indian origin, from his birth to his death (from a heart attack). The character of Biswas affords Naipaul an opportunity to portray the conflicts between resilience and hope on the one hand, and disappointments, dread, and defeats on the other; the former ultimately triumph, if only in a moral sense. The house of the title comes to symbolize the freedoms that Biswas, besieged by adversity in his personal and his professional life, longs for: from the problems of love (and the lack of it), identity, class, and social prestige. The tale is recounted with ease and humour, allowing Naipaul to create a representative gallery of cleverly drawn types (including the Tulsis, Biswas's rapacious in-laws) that present a panoramic view of Caribbean attitudes. Naipaul's whimsical treatment of his theme betrays the influence of Narayan.

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