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The Mimic Men is a moving novel that evokes a colonial man's experience in the postcolonial world. Naipaul is the author of 13 works of fiction and has won many prizes including the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Mimic Men is a moving novel that evokes a colonial man's experience in the postcolonial world. Naipaul is the author of 13 works of fiction and has won many prizes including the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature.


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The Mimic Men is a moving novel that evokes a colonial man's experience in the postcolonial world. Naipaul is the author of 13 works of fiction and has won many prizes including the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Mimic Men is a moving novel that evokes a colonial man's experience in the postcolonial world. Naipaul is the author of 13 works of fiction and has won many prizes including the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

30 review for The Mimic Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    William2

    The ramp up of Part 1 seems unusually long, though hardly a slog. In it Naipaul’s classic, young, post-colonial island man takes up residence in a shared house in post-war Kensington, a part of London that was once seedy and cheap according to the author. The house is full of Maltese and Italians and various sad alcoholics who fall down a lot. Leini, an Italo-Maltese woman living in the dank basement, gets a party together to attend the baptism of her fatherless child. It’s a sad affair. The nar The ramp up of Part 1 seems unusually long, though hardly a slog. In it Naipaul’s classic, young, post-colonial island man takes up residence in a shared house in post-war Kensington, a part of London that was once seedy and cheap according to the author. The house is full of Maltese and Italians and various sad alcoholics who fall down a lot. Leini, an Italo-Maltese woman living in the dank basement, gets a party together to attend the baptism of her fatherless child. It’s a sad affair. The narrator, Ranjit Kripalsingh, shortened to Ralph Singh, then marries an emotionally damaged young woman with magnificent breasts who by acting out randomly alienates anyone who might befriend them as a couple. Soon a retreat to the author’s native isle of Isabella seems prudent. On docking, Singh’s mother, learning she now has a white daughter-in-law, makes a scene. Soon thereafter Singh gets creative with a legacy of wasteland and becomes a wealthy developer. The wife gets worse due to the materialism. Soon they’ve gone their separate ways and Singh has begun to write. It’s like The Mystic Masseur but gutted of the humor. The reader, like the writer, dutifully soldiers on. Part 2 reverts to Singh’s childhood. Suddenly, the book feels more like a Naipaul novel. In it we get the story of his early life on the tropical island of Isabella. His father, an underpaid school teacher, marries into a family a few years before they grow wealthy as the island’s sole Coca-Cola bottler. Formerly seen as a good match, the father is now deprecated by the wife’s family. The now affluent wife comes to believe she’s married beneath herself. The father later becomes a millenarian figure leading disaffected dock workers to a brief idyll in the mountains. It was not until page 117 that I finally discovered what I’d been missing. It was Naipaul’s frank talk of race. On a school outing, for example, the beautifully Chinese Hok is discovered to be the son of a black mother. As Singh tells us:We had converted our island into one big secret. Anything that touched on everyday life excited laughter when it was mentioned in a classroom: the name of a shop, the name if a street, the name of street-corner foods. The laughter denied our knowledge of these things to which after the hours of school we were to return. Hok ignores his black mother in the street. His teacher is appalled. Hok is made to acknowledge her if only by the passing of a few simple words. Suddenly, the boy known in class as Confucius, is persona non grata. It was for this betrayal into ordinariness that I knew he was crying. It was at this betrayal that the brave among us were tittering. It wasn’t only that the mother was black and of the people, though that was a point; it was because he had been expelled from the private sphere of fantasy [the school] where lay his true life. . . . I felt I had been given an unfair glimpse of another person’s deepest secrets. I felt on that street, shady, with gardens, and really pretty as I now recall it, though then to me wholly drab, that Hok had dreams like mine, was probably also marked, and lived in imagination far from us, far from the island on which he, like my father, like myself, had been shipwrecked. (p.117) Whoa. From here on the novel begins to fascinate. We’re back in Naipaul Land. And—again—one feels what a privilege it is to read him. Once the narrator moves on to tell the story of his island childhood the old magic ensnares us. I wouldn’t say that Part 1 is inferior, but I was unable to get traction in the story until p. 117. Part 3 may be brilliant. Time will be helpful in determining that. In it Singh recounts the rise and fall of his political career on Isabella with hardly a dabbling in the substantive issues. The novel becomes not one of scenes and description and dialog—A House for Mr Biswas is the book to go to for that. Here, the novel’s later pages are almost wholly about the actions and opinions of men as they manipulate others’s emotions and reap praise and celebrity. Here, it might be said, the novel becomes all voice, all Singh’s persona, and the concreteness of detail commensurately flattens, dissipates. The world withdraws. A collapse is coming. Singh retreats inward. One has the sense in the end of a lost person, the homunculus peering out of his vessel in desperation, withdrawing, giving up the world.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dmitri

    "We came into the Indian areas where rice and sugarcane grew. My father spoke of the voyage to a strange hemisphere so remote to complete our own little bastard world." "We pretended to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, mimic men of the New World in one unknown corner." "The order to which the colonial politician succeeds is not his order. It is something he is compelled to destroy. It comes with his emergence and is a condition of his power." "I no longer seek to find beauty in the "We came into the Indian areas where rice and sugarcane grew. My father spoke of the voyage to a strange hemisphere so remote to complete our own little bastard world." "We pretended to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, mimic men of the New World in one unknown corner." "The order to which the colonial politician succeeds is not his order. It is something he is compelled to destroy. It comes with his emergence and is a condition of his power." "I no longer seek to find beauty in the lives of the mean and the oppressed. Hate oppression and fear the oppressed." - 'Ralph' Ranjit Singh's thoughts as told by V S Naipaul Naipaul wrote 'Mimic Men' in Kampala, Uganda where he had accepted an invitation to Makerere University. He let it be known that a Writer-In-Residence was just that, refusing to lecture or attend faculty functions, rarely coming out of his cottage. The result was this 1967 novel, a departure from his earlier comic stories and narrative fiction. He enters the mind of 'Ralph' Singh, suspiciously similar to Naipaul, an Indian from a fictitious post-colonial West Indies island. Singh, through a series of flashbacks, recalls years in London attending university on scholarship from the colonies after WWII. He rooms in a dingy boarding house, with refugees and misfit expats, frequenting prostitutes. He meets Sandra, a British middle class student, who resembles Naipaul's first wife Pat. Within a short time they are married. He returns home with her, to the horror of his Hindu mother who is brokering his marriage with suitable girls from the island. Singh inherits a rundown citrus farm on the outskirts of the Isabella capital and he unexpectedly turns it into a lucrative housing subdivision. Loans from US banks and post-war expansion bring him success and the envy of other colonial elites, who often marry expatriate spouses. He associates his luck with Sandra, who is increasingly derisive of the social scene. As their love wanes he suspects that she will leave him and only he would remain shipwrecked on the island. Singh was a son of an educated but poor father and a mother from an illustrious family, echoes of Naipaul's life. He recalls school years and classmates competing for status. Dwelling in self doubts and delusions of grandeur he daydreams of descendants from Aryan plains, now toilers in the fields of sugarcane. A caste system of Europeans, Asians and Africans looked down on each other. Teenage angst combined with colonial alienation as he resolved to escape the island. Singh senses the class order breaking up after WWII. His father became leader of labor strikes. He trades business for politics as nationalist movements begin. Elected he realizes no consensus is possible in the fragmented society. Civil service and land remain in the hands of foreigners, the trappings of power held by mimic men. Industry involves packing foreign products in foreign containers. Entangled in provincial disputes he returns to Britain from the island. This novel is set within the thoughts of the narrator Singh. Incidents and characters recalled are subordinated to his introspection. If Naipaul was less intriguing it wouldn't be as interesting. Relations between man and woman, friend and rival, alien and native, seen through the disillusioned eyes of Singh, are disturbing but familiar. Naipaul was a voice of the diaspora, ex-slaves and indentured servants adrift on post-colonial seas, with a relentlessly dark view of the island.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    The Mimic Men is a work of fiction about a man who grew up on a Caribbean island called Isabella (not a real island). As an adult he moved to England for a while, came back to Isabella, trying to help reconstruct it after it stopped being an English colony and ultimately failing. Ralph Singh is a man who tries to Anglicize himself. In school he changes his name to Ralph from Ranjit Kripalsingh. The story fluctuates back and forth between the two cultures as Ralph Singh tries to come to terms wit The Mimic Men is a work of fiction about a man who grew up on a Caribbean island called Isabella (not a real island). As an adult he moved to England for a while, came back to Isabella, trying to help reconstruct it after it stopped being an English colony and ultimately failing. Ralph Singh is a man who tries to Anglicize himself. In school he changes his name to Ralph from Ranjit Kripalsingh. The story fluctuates back and forth between the two cultures as Ralph Singh tries to come to terms with his identity inside a Caribbean culture while trying to apply English attributes to his person and life. There are wheels within wheels because Singh is a man of Caribbean culture but also from Indian culture; yet he is not Indian either. He is Indian suffused with the culture of the islands. The story has its moments. When he describes his life on the island, his family and relatives, I see glances of a vividness in his culture among Indians, whites and those of African descent, not to mention all the ones who share each race, which is quite common in the Caribbean. But these moments only occasionally flash here and there. Singh tries to blend into the Englishness of the U.K. He marries a white woman, has affairs with many others, but he cannot warm up to the people or their way of life. However, going back to Isabella, he no longer fits in there either. Really, I had a hard time understanding or caring about the characters of this novel. A lot that was going on was not clear to me, at least I failed to see the point. The only thing I found interesting were the different characters Singh describes as they come into his life. The least interesting part of the novel is when Singh joins a group of Socialists in the U.K. Reading about him and his co-horts trying to promote these ideals was just plain boring. Describing people enamored with "causes" holds no interest for me. I wish he had spent more time giving the reader better views of his characters but Naipaul has a habit of writing about people without any sense of who anyone is. Everyone is a stranger to him. It is as if the narrator suffers from some sort of emotional detachment and is incapable of caring about anyone or anything. He gets away with it in his non-fiction, at least in the one non-fiction book of his I read (An Area of Darkness, his travelogue of his time in India), but it simply does not brighten this existentially bland account of people from either island who I know from personal experience are filled with so much personality and color.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bob Newman

    Life Escapes Me.....I Escape Life Perhaps colonial rule in much of the world did produce mimic men. They were those who modeled themselves or at least were modeled on patterns produced for others in the "mother country". They grew up divorced from their origins and could look forward to being put down forever as "not quite the real thing" if they tried to assimilate to metropolitan society. The sweep of literature written by V.S. Naipaul, his brother Shiva, and a host of other writers from the We Life Escapes Me.....I Escape Life Perhaps colonial rule in much of the world did produce mimic men. They were those who modeled themselves or at least were modeled on patterns produced for others in the "mother country". They grew up divorced from their origins and could look forward to being put down forever as "not quite the real thing" if they tried to assimilate to metropolitan society. The sweep of literature written by V.S. Naipaul, his brother Shiva, and a host of other writers from the West Indies, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America testifies to the truth of this. But wait, can we not find anything joyful in life? Is there no hope whatsoever, despite what hand Fate deals us? What about a sense of humor? In this tale of a colonial boyhood in an island country very like the author's native Trinidad, the strongest note is always distress and failure. A boy attends school, gets good marks and is able to go to England on scholarship. There he crumbles into permanent unease, drifts helplessly, has hopeless affairs, and marries an English woman who also reeks of dissatisfaction. He takes no joy or pleasure in anything, wallowing in disappointment and a feeling of unreality (which is no doubt part of being a "mimic man"). All his relationships are fraught with either pretension or despair. He cannot accept himself or others, fears warmth and friendship, and constantly looks for the plastic trash on the beach of life. Returning to his island, Ralph Singh becomes a real estate magnate, goes into politics, wins a national election, becomes a political force, and then is pushed out, exiled at last to England. There is no spoiler alert here. This is very, very far from a thriller or a novel with an exciting plot. It is a psychological tour de force, both in terms of the main character and of the author. There is a great riff on the feelings of a politician, the "movement" and the crowd. The basis of politics in former colonial societies is writ large. Many of Naipaul's observations capture the behavior of charlatan politicians everywhere. But the mental intricacies of such people form the main thrust of this novel along with their inevitable trajectories. Death is coming, people are continually false, everyone is acting all the time, life is spectral and futile. Hey! If you are looking for a glum, joyless look at human nature, this is definitely your book. But I've given it five stars because despite his gloom, Naipaul is a top writer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John

    The story of a man growing up on a Caribbean island called Isabella. It is divided into three parts. First his trip to England and life there. He lives in a rundown hotel and meets eventually Sandra. They marry and return to Isabella. His mother is upset he has married a white woman. Ralph Singh the name he gives himself then becomes a successful property developer. He is in a group of people not really friends who envy his success. He becomes estranged from his wife who is uneducated and common The story of a man growing up on a Caribbean island called Isabella. It is divided into three parts. First his trip to England and life there. He lives in a rundown hotel and meets eventually Sandra. They marry and return to Isabella. His mother is upset he has married a white woman. Ralph Singh the name he gives himself then becomes a successful property developer. He is in a group of people not really friends who envy his success. He becomes estranged from his wife who is uneducated and common. The second part deals with his childhood and relationships with family and friends. His father leaves him and sets up a cult with political aspirations. This fails. Then his father becomes a leader of a small Hindu sect. Ralph’s family is well off and he associates with his mothers side of the family who are wealthy from having the Coca Cola franchise for the island. He is nearly murdered by his cousin Cecil a spoilt child who grows up to lose everything. He also begins to be involved in politics. The first part also includes his past relationship with his wife Sandra. The life they have of building a Roman house, friends they do not like and Ralph’s alienation of who he is. The third part of the novel is his rise and fall as a politician and return to England to write his memoirs in a London Hotel. The story captures the struggle of newly independent colonies and the naivety of politicians, corruption, greed and the making of promises to the populace that can and have never been achieved. Ralph does not have the stomach for the shenanigans and instead gives up and finds a form of peace in writing his story. Naipaul has a great way with words if at time heavy the story is one we are familiar with and still happens today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adelaide Mcginnity

    This book is utterly lacking in plot, interesting characters, or anything useful to say about the human condition. What makes it all the more frustrating is that this should be interesting; it's about a businessman turned socialist politician in a newly free Island nation. But instead of getting gripping highlights from his rise and fall from power, Naipaul chooses instead to make his narrator detached and cynical, for "literary effect" or something (it is as if he is actively sabotaging his own This book is utterly lacking in plot, interesting characters, or anything useful to say about the human condition. What makes it all the more frustrating is that this should be interesting; it's about a businessman turned socialist politician in a newly free Island nation. But instead of getting gripping highlights from his rise and fall from power, Naipaul chooses instead to make his narrator detached and cynical, for "literary effect" or something (it is as if he is actively sabotaging his own book). Over half the book is uninteresting biographical details and random musings, with all the action taking place in passing. I'm not usually a purist when it comes to "show, don't tell," but my goodness was this boring.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    It turns out that it is possible for a book devoid of plot to be redeemed by the sheer force of its prose. Like most of V.S. Naipaul's books this one is essentially an exploration of some part of his own identity. The main character is a colonial politician and this is essentially his life story, growing up "shipwrecked" on a fictional version of Naipaul's own Trinidad. Ralph Singh is a mimic man like all those of the colonial elite – learning about another distant world through books and televi It turns out that it is possible for a book devoid of plot to be redeemed by the sheer force of its prose. Like most of V.S. Naipaul's books this one is essentially an exploration of some part of his own identity. The main character is a colonial politician and this is essentially his life story, growing up "shipwrecked" on a fictional version of Naipaul's own Trinidad. Ralph Singh is a mimic man like all those of the colonial elite – learning about another distant world through books and television and attempting to apply those lessons to his own very different society. There is a saying attributed to the Greeks that the first prerequisite for a person to be happy is being born in a famous city. Naipaul seemed to believe this, so one can imagine his angst at being born in a place he never ceased to deride as a backwater. There are the familiar themes of Naipaul's works in this one: humor, contempt, futility, yearning. He described the world as he saw it without stepping on eggshells. That's what makes reading him so refreshing, regardless if he was wrong or unfair at times. Naipaul was an incredible writer, a genius. He could make a describe drinking a cup of cocoa or slicing cheese in a manner that is somehow absolutely captivating and unforgettable. He used humor effectively and described the very ordinary – food, manners, his own surroundings while writing – carefully and with great beauty. His political commentary, for whatever it's worth, is simply a bonus. Not much really happens in this book, not in a clear way at least. Yet somehow it was gripping. You can actually observe him in his earliest books working up to his masterpiece, A House for Mister Biswas. I never thought I was someone who could enjoy reading just for prose but I've been proven wrong.

  8. 5 out of 5

    D

    Impeccable style. Interesting story. The last part contained a bit too much repetition to my taste.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    "Sentence for sentence, he is a model of literary tact and precision…" – for me that is why one should read this book. There is not a line that does not feel considered. This is precisely what Naipaul intended to say. It might not be what a lot of people want to hear but I would respectfully suggest that it is far from irrelevant. A lot of dull (and, indeed, unsympathetic) characters have had a lot to say, Camus' Meursault, in his prison cell (The Outsider), and Saul Bellow's Joseph, in his chea "Sentence for sentence, he is a model of literary tact and precision…" – for me that is why one should read this book. There is not a line that does not feel considered. This is precisely what Naipaul intended to say. It might not be what a lot of people want to hear but I would respectfully suggest that it is far from irrelevant. A lot of dull (and, indeed, unsympathetic) characters have had a lot to say, Camus' Meursault, in his prison cell (The Outsider), and Saul Bellow's Joseph, in his cheap New York boarding house (Dangling Man), jump to mind but no doubt there are others. You can read a full review on my blog here.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I think perhaps the style of the prose is a large factor towards my disliking this novel - it just wasn't for me. However, I think the main reason I didn't like it was the protagonist, Ralph Singh. I just couldn't connect to the man, no matter how hard I tried. Mostly, it felt like this was a novel that was floating by me, but that I could not grasp on to. I think perhaps the style of the prose is a large factor towards my disliking this novel - it just wasn't for me. However, I think the main reason I didn't like it was the protagonist, Ralph Singh. I just couldn't connect to the man, no matter how hard I tried. Mostly, it felt like this was a novel that was floating by me, but that I could not grasp on to.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Apphia Barton

    I'm a commoner trying so hard to finish this book. Is it too early to call VS Naipaul overrated? Does this make me ignorant? Don't get me wrong, I understand the post-colonial social issues highlighted and the theme of displacement and Singh's search for identity etcetera but it just isn't as interesting as I was hoping it would be. I'm forcing myself to enjoy this book and its feeling like a task in itself. To avoid any biasses I must acknowledge his literary brilliance and his extraordinary use I'm a commoner trying so hard to finish this book. Is it too early to call VS Naipaul overrated? Does this make me ignorant? Don't get me wrong, I understand the post-colonial social issues highlighted and the theme of displacement and Singh's search for identity etcetera but it just isn't as interesting as I was hoping it would be. I'm forcing myself to enjoy this book and its feeling like a task in itself. To avoid any biasses I must acknowledge his literary brilliance and his extraordinary use of words. No lie, I chuckled a bit here and there. Unfortunately this book just isn't my cup of tea. I shall finish it simply because I have made it my goal to read at least 5 books written by Caribbean authors and this would make 4 out of 5.

  12. 5 out of 5

    William

    This book makes you feel small, insignificant, and makes you question the meaning of the almost absurd lives that we all lead in a world transformed by colonialism. As an Asian American, I experienced a mixture of emotions and reactions that are hard to describe. Oh, and reading this book makes you feel so, so alone in this world for some reason...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Casey (Myshkin) Buell

    For fans of Naipaul The Mimic Men will cover familiar territory; isolation, identity, apathy. For newcomers to Naipaul I suggest you start somewhere else. Guerrillas or A Bend in the River would probably be the best starting point. In The Mimic Men we are treated to the first person account of the life of Ralph Singe, former government minister of the small island nation of Isabella, now living in exile. The story is split into three non-linear sections: the first detailing Ralph's college years For fans of Naipaul The Mimic Men will cover familiar territory; isolation, identity, apathy. For newcomers to Naipaul I suggest you start somewhere else. Guerrillas or A Bend in the River would probably be the best starting point. In The Mimic Men we are treated to the first person account of the life of Ralph Singe, former government minister of the small island nation of Isabella, now living in exile. The story is split into three non-linear sections: the first detailing Ralph's college years in London, and his return to Isabella with his English wife; the second dealing with his youth as a privileged, yet minority "Asiatic" on Isabella; the third covering his rise to power in the newly independent nation. As with much of Naipaul's work The Mimic Men is concerned largely with the theme of identity; the grander theme of post-colonial national identity, as well as the smaller, though no less important, theme of personal identity. Ralph (like Naipaul himself) is a man without a homeland. Though I thought this theme was better portrayed in Guerrillas and A Bend in the River, The mimic Men is still a brilliant novel written in Naipaul's trademark brutal and precise prose.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Realini

    The Mimic Men by V. S. Naipaul This is not a spoiler alert per se, since I will not disclose any plot or ending. However, I will not write so much about the book as what it made me feel, think and…write. You are welcome to read my “re-view”, but if you want to know more about the plot, the style…I am afraid this may be of little help V.S. Naipaul has the magic touch. Writing about (my impression) of The Mimic Men, I think of A Bend in the River and A House for Mr. Biswas. To make amends for my lac The Mimic Men by V. S. Naipaul This is not a spoiler alert per se, since I will not disclose any plot or ending. However, I will not write so much about the book as what it made me feel, think and…write. You are welcome to read my “re-view”, but if you want to know more about the plot, the style…I am afraid this may be of little help V.S. Naipaul has the magic touch. Writing about (my impression) of The Mimic Men, I think of A Bend in the River and A House for Mr. Biswas. To make amends for my lack of understanding of The Mimic Men, I can say that I am determined to read again…not The Mimics, but one or both of the mentioned masterpieces. When you read the great work of a fabulous writer, you are bound to raise the stakes and expectations for the next book by the same acclaimed author. If there are two masterpieces, it gets next to impossible to find the same satisfaction in immersing in the third. That may be what happened here: I did not get hooked by The Mimic Men. It is a rare phenomenon for me: I can think of three, four authors, from the top of my head that have written more than four or five novels that I loved. They are – Marcel Proust, Somerset Maugham, Herman Hesse and Thomas Mann. And the books I am referring to are: In Search of Lost Time – which could be looked at as a whole long novel, or the best story ever told in 6 novels Somerset Maugham has fascinated me with Of Human Bondage (rated among the best novels of the 20th century) The Painted Veil, Short Stories (practically all of them), Cakes and Ale and The Moon and Six Pence Herman Hesse is a Nobel Prize Winner and the well known author of Siddhartha, Narcissus and Goldmund (which overwhelmed me and I am in the process of reading again) and The wonderful The Glass Bead Game Thomas Mann again a Nobel Prize Winner and marvelous writer- I loved first of all The Magic Mountain (included among the best books ever written, together with some other of Thomas Mann’s works), Death in Venice, The Buddenbrooks and Joseph and His Brothers. Thomas Mann has a short story, apart from the novels mentioned, which had a tremendous impact on me. I am afraid I do not know the name of the tale and it may be rather irrelevant, for it is one message in it which “pierced my heart” not the whole story, since I do not recollect much of the rest… One character in the short story says something like this: “I look around and I am amazed- I hear people complaining all the time: “- I love you so much, I have no words to express it Another one says -Our friendship means so much, words are too small” …. The character says: - Words like love and friendship mean so much that we do not find them in real life - Only in books you find love and friends - Love is a feeling, in its definition, that goes way beyond what people around feel The same with friendship A friend will stay with us, help us foe ever… But not in real life If we look at the multitude of facebook friendships which mean next to nothing, he is right and accurate for our times. I wrote more about a Thomas Mann than about The Mimic Men…but I did warn you, didn’t I?? Included here would be one of those smileys, but I have read that Martin Seligman feels they are useless and I agree, they are so much used and abused that they have ceased to mean anything…like so many of those big words: patriotism, I care for you….

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    The lesson to be learned from V.S. Naipaul's The Mimic Men is that the place from which you come can be a limiting factor in your life. Even if that place is Trinidad (called Isabella in the novel), a not entirely successful multiracial society. I know this is true, because I am from Cleveland, Ohio -- known for Maynard G. Krebs's The Monster That Devoured Cleveland and such mottoes as "The Mistake on the Lake" and "The Worst Location in the Nation." This book is a strange admixture of fiction an The lesson to be learned from V.S. Naipaul's The Mimic Men is that the place from which you come can be a limiting factor in your life. Even if that place is Trinidad (called Isabella in the novel), a not entirely successful multiracial society. I know this is true, because I am from Cleveland, Ohio -- known for Maynard G. Krebs's The Monster That Devoured Cleveland and such mottoes as "The Mistake on the Lake" and "The Worst Location in the Nation." This book is a strange admixture of fiction and autobiography. As I read it, I definitely felt that I was following Naipaul's own story, as he goes to England, feeling not as an Englishman, yet no longer really feeling he was a Trinidadian. In a way, Naipaul seems to be saying, all former colonials from the Caribbean are, as it were, mimic men, not truly belonging anywhere. I read this book after reading Paul Theroux's excellent Sir Vidia's Shadow, which brought me closer to both Naipaul and Theroux, even though their own friendship was dissolved after Naipaul's remarriage. It made me want to read more of Theroux and of Naipaul, both of whom I have liked and respected these many years.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Filipa Calado

    When I first got this book, I turned to a random page and read a paragraph. To my delight, I chanced on some sentimental, musing passage about the misery of being alone, that was melancholic yet moving, and my expectations for the book rose. Unfortunately, the sample I encountered proved to be very representative, and I quickly tired of the narrator's pathetic and mopey writing style. The benefit? Some parts are so sad they are funny. The novel does explore some deeper worthwhile topics about im When I first got this book, I turned to a random page and read a paragraph. To my delight, I chanced on some sentimental, musing passage about the misery of being alone, that was melancholic yet moving, and my expectations for the book rose. Unfortunately, the sample I encountered proved to be very representative, and I quickly tired of the narrator's pathetic and mopey writing style. The benefit? Some parts are so sad they are funny. The novel does explore some deeper worthwhile topics about immigration and patriation, and offers pretty regular comments about breasts (the narrator is obsessed with describing every breast he encounters, particularly his girfriend's, whose nipples are painted with lipstick), but besides that it's drudgery to read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Dense. Dense. Dense and dense some more. The book is like molasses- slow and beyond boring. I could not connect with any of the characters, I felt the descriptions and story was overwritten and overdone. It was just too much, as if Naipaul was trying hard. Now I have a very big aversion to this book. Overwritten and Dense.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pris

    I have been resistant to reading Naipaul because well...ahem ahem. Can't say Naipaul was redeemed for me in this book. Too indulgent. And who describes a woman's legs as something that "quivered like risen dough" No thanks. I have been resistant to reading Naipaul because well...ahem ahem. Can't say Naipaul was redeemed for me in this book. Too indulgent. And who describes a woman's legs as something that "quivered like risen dough" No thanks.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Geetanjali Tara Joshi

    good work but sounds very stereotype, a young second generation immigrant Indian in the Caribbeans being toyed by the world powers..

  20. 4 out of 5

    رابعة الدلالي

    This Book Represents the identity crisis of the protagonist Ranjit Kripal Singh, who spends his childhood in a British colony, then goes to college in London. He then returns to to his Island home torn up by decolonization, only to be exiled and ending up back in London. At 40 years old he writes his reflection on how his life turned out as it did. Indeed the book throws light on the post-colonial realities that have shaped the Contemporary societies, and provides important insights relating to h This Book Represents the identity crisis of the protagonist Ranjit Kripal Singh, who spends his childhood in a British colony, then goes to college in London. He then returns to to his Island home torn up by decolonization, only to be exiled and ending up back in London. At 40 years old he writes his reflection on how his life turned out as it did. Indeed the book throws light on the post-colonial realities that have shaped the Contemporary societies, and provides important insights relating to hybridity ambivalence transculturation uncentricity exile and so on. The novel can also be seen as a mirror of Naipaul's career. Just like the rest of his novels one should focus on Naipaul himself to understand the historical and theoretical issues his books has generated. The protagonist's relationship with space ( London in one hand and Isabella in the other hand) highlights his understanding of culture identity belonging and his longing for "certainties". thus it highlights his crisis as a lost citizen "white but not quite". In this book, Naipaul, I think, is implicitly criticizing the colonizers for the rootlessness of the ex-colonized individuals. Indeed Singh, unlike many other ex-colonized, is not handicapped by poverty ignorance or a lack of natural Talent. Thus he is exposed, thanks to his education to a more sophisticated London Society. In spite of all of that he is not less vulnerable to the identity crisis. To quickly conclude our mimic man is lost between his artificial home and the Imperial Center, two completely different conflicting locations, among which Rangit or Ralph has lost his belonging to one definite clear home. To be honest the book is good. But did I enjoy it? No is the answer simply because I'm not reading it I'm studying it for the literature exam.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    I think this is one of the first books I've ever read (at least that I'm consciously aware of) that won a Pulitzer Prize. I can see why it won it. I can also see why popular fiction will never win the Pulitzer. The novel tells the story of a Caribbean politician and his life "in parenthesis" on his home island and in London. The narrative voice doesn't shift from place to place, which focuses the cohesiveness of the personality that moves between the two spaces. The narrator's depiction of his ow I think this is one of the first books I've ever read (at least that I'm consciously aware of) that won a Pulitzer Prize. I can see why it won it. I can also see why popular fiction will never win the Pulitzer. The novel tells the story of a Caribbean politician and his life "in parenthesis" on his home island and in London. The narrative voice doesn't shift from place to place, which focuses the cohesiveness of the personality that moves between the two spaces. The narrator's depiction of his own life is strangely muted at times, as if he really doesn't ever care what happens to him. He never seems to get angry for instance, even at things he should be angry about, and when people around him express other strong emotions like anger or jealousy, he is terribly uncomfortable with it. The narrator is fascinated with the quality of light in both places, but most particularly in London, something shared with some other postcolonial writers, and his depictions of landscapes frequently employ light as a descriptor of the mood that each place evokes. It's a very interesting engagement with the physical, yet non-tangible element (light) of landscape. This is certainly one of those books that sticks with you after you've read it and worthy of a reread at some future point.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Krysta B.

    Master of language. But plot? Meh. I gather this was somewhat autobiographical but I just could not sympathize with the protagonist and did not care what happened to him. The story moved too slowly and went...nowhere interesting. What I did appreciate was the dissonance, the not belonging, the awareness of performance in day to day life... and of course, the beautiful language!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    It seemedto have a slow start but as the book progressed the layers were revealed. Very clever, very haunting, and also rather sad.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zoonanism

    Such craft, such care in sentence construction, clever conceits charged with brutal honesty.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sabita

    This was the first VS Naipaul work of fiction I read for a session in our book club, having read some of his brutal opinions via essays on India sometime in the past. Was the only one I managed to secure in time from the library, and didn't realise this may not be a good first read to pick up. The Mimic Men is the first person account of the life of Ralph Singe, former government minister of the small island nation of Isabella, now living in exile. The story is split into three non-linear section This was the first VS Naipaul work of fiction I read for a session in our book club, having read some of his brutal opinions via essays on India sometime in the past. Was the only one I managed to secure in time from the library, and didn't realise this may not be a good first read to pick up. The Mimic Men is the first person account of the life of Ralph Singe, former government minister of the small island nation of Isabella, now living in exile. The story is split into three non-linear sections: the first detailing Ralph's college years in London, and his return to Isabella with his English wife; the second dealing with his youth as a privileged, yet minority "Asiatic" on Isabella; the third covering his rise to power in the newly independent nation. This is one of his earlier works, written in 1967, but not satirical or funny unlike some of his other works. I am not even sure if it is fully fiction or semi autobiographical. Reading reviews of some of his other works and listening to others in my literary group expound on Naipaul, I did feel this book has representation of all that he is famous for, including: Isolation – all men are islands Apathy - Depiction of self as a strangely reticent but ambivalent person, not even motivated to anger Identity – Indian born in a fictional place called Isabella in Caribbean, moved to London and then moved back – handles the complex cultural connotations and mixups very well Apart from the above, Naipaul's language is incisive and trenchant: other reviewers have called it "exquisite but technical" - I agree with this. People in my lit group likened him to RK Narayan "without the warmth". One aspect I felt was a bit different in this book was the blame he seems to take for his marriage unravelling - seems to be quite fairly assessed unlike his other books (I am told - where he is self absorbed and self indulgent about his own foibles). After reading this book, I realised that I am not able to hold interest in a book solely for its language alone (which is brilliant in this case) - I need a plot or characters that I either like or understand or at least feel strongly about - none of these emotions were forthcoming when I read this book unfortunately. Will I read another Naipaul - yes, maybe at some point in the future - the whole clash of cultures and his assessment of it is fascinating enough to want to read more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vishal Choradiya

    Among V.S. Naipaul’s lesser-known novels, “The Mimic Men” is a contemplative, semi-autobiographical scrutiny of the isolation and ambivalence of the postcolonial condition. It is structured as a three-part nonlinear memoir, through which the narrator Ralph Singh, a 40-year-old “picturesque Asiatic” from a fictional British colony in the Caribbean islands (based on Naipaul’s own Trinidad), seeks order and meaning in the formlessness of his experiences. He writes from a hotel in suburban London wh Among V.S. Naipaul’s lesser-known novels, “The Mimic Men” is a contemplative, semi-autobiographical scrutiny of the isolation and ambivalence of the postcolonial condition. It is structured as a three-part nonlinear memoir, through which the narrator Ralph Singh, a 40-year-old “picturesque Asiatic” from a fictional British colony in the Caribbean islands (based on Naipaul’s own Trinidad), seeks order and meaning in the formlessness of his experiences. He writes from a hotel in suburban London where, as a refugee-immigrant, he recounts the perpetual “drift and helplessness” of his life—a childhood of denial and shame about the inadequacies and smallness of his world; his flight to England, where he fashions himself as a dandy while pursuing a degree; his failed marriage to a white woman, despite a prosperous stint as a developer on his home island; and his sudden, dramatic role in a political uprising that collapses into futility and violence. The narrative conveys the colonial subject’s yearning to flee the “shipwreck” of an existence circumscribed by place, and an impostor syndrome produced by racial subjugation. It portrays how an English education can engender disdain for the oppressed, besides resentment for one’s own land and people, often sought to be overcome by imitating one’s own coloniser. The protagonist grows up with the fantasy of escaping the island to claim his Indo-Aryan heritage—his “element” in the snow and light of a great city. But not only does he encounter feelings of disassociation and forlorn emptiness in London, he also struggles to forge a sense of belonging back home, only to be compelled again to withdraw into exile. The gloominess of the identity crisis and prolonged company of unsympathetic characters, most of whom are reduced to ethnic stereotypes or sex objects in Singh’s eyes, is redeemed only by rare bursts of humour and Naipaul’s acute, masterful prose. Even if sometimes dense in its penchant for neurotic analysis over storytelling, there is much to savour in his meticulous sentences and ability to illustrate social truths beyond anodyne political correctness. This one is for serious readers who enjoy hard-earned pleasures.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike Gilbert

    Naipaul relates the tale of a Indian man born and raised in a British colony in the Caribbean and two - no three - things come to mind when thinking about what I have read. First, the writing is beautiful. I almost wrote exquisite, because of its technical beauty. But unlike other exquisite writing - Proust and Camus both come to mind - he crafts his sentences densely without making them dense to the reader. While the depth of craftsmanship in Proust and Camus can slow the reader, much like one Naipaul relates the tale of a Indian man born and raised in a British colony in the Caribbean and two - no three - things come to mind when thinking about what I have read. First, the writing is beautiful. I almost wrote exquisite, because of its technical beauty. But unlike other exquisite writing - Proust and Camus both come to mind - he crafts his sentences densely without making them dense to the reader. While the depth of craftsmanship in Proust and Camus can slow the reader, much like one absorbing all of details in a high resolution photograph, Naipaul writes like Seurat paints: precise brush strokes that can be examined individually for meaning but also convey the story brilliantly at a glance. My second observation is that this is the first novel in some time where I dislike the main character completely. Ralph Singh has no redeemable qualities, or at least he tells us nothing of his life as a child, husband, or politician - the three distinct acts in his life - that drove me to like of even feel any sympathy toward him. It’s a rare feat to read a tale that stays engaging with such an unsympathetic lead. In fact, even the supporting characters leave the reader with a distaste in their mouth. Perhaps that distaste comes from the fact that we meet and see them all through the eyes of Ralph. Despite the fact that he’s unsympathetic, Ralph also doesn’t provide any sort of catharsis. He is not diabolical or otherwise villainous. He is just another man living his life like so many at that time, caught up in various events that shape his life. Granted, he makes a decision here or there to slightly alter his position in the current that sweeps him along, but generally, one feels his life is like so many. Unremarkable. Unsympathetic. A mimic of other men in all walks of life, with all sorts of different circumstances. And that is what makes the book so remarkable.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robert Wechsler

    This is the fourth of V. S. Naipaul’s novels that I’ve read. It’s a three-part novel, a relatively ordinary bildungsroman sandwiched between two extraordinary dramatic monologues with very little dialogue (and this works very well). Part One is a classic dramatic monologue with lots of irony, in which we learn more about the narrator than he seems to want us to know. But after opening up about his childhood, Part Three’s monologue has the reader more trusting of the narrator, and yet the narrato This is the fourth of V. S. Naipaul’s novels that I’ve read. It’s a three-part novel, a relatively ordinary bildungsroman sandwiched between two extraordinary dramatic monologues with very little dialogue (and this works very well). Part One is a classic dramatic monologue with lots of irony, in which we learn more about the narrator than he seems to want us to know. But after opening up about his childhood, Part Three’s monologue has the reader more trusting of the narrator, and yet the narrator is less trusting of himself, although always opinionated. He’s an annoying monologuist in the way he contradicts himself and pontificates about himself and his world, both personal and political, but he’s fascinating, and there are some setpieces that are magnificent. The novel is marked by withholding, obliqueness, and ambiguity in a way that demands a second reading, as well as a first reading with dampened expectations of knowing exactly what is going on and what we are to take from what we are told. Naipaul was truly a masterly novelist.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin McAvoy

    About a guy from a fictional island called Isabella somewhere near Trinidad. He narrates his life as a child and a struggling writer and finally a deposed politician living in a crummy hotel in London. V.S. Naipaul is a very good writer and this book won the W.H.Smith award. A bit confusing at times because he jumps around time-wise but over-all the book is quite good. I like the writer to talk to the reader as Naipaul does in his books.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Sexton

    A deeply fractured narrative from the pen of a deeply fractured narrator, this book is strange, but it's also pretty good. It defies conventional means of talking about it, and while there are good scenes, they can be so jumbled in the timeline of events that it's probably best to speak on the book from afar. The overall story is unique and serves as an excellent exploration on colonialism and its effects. It's not the best thing I've ever read, but it's still moderately impressive. A deeply fractured narrative from the pen of a deeply fractured narrator, this book is strange, but it's also pretty good. It defies conventional means of talking about it, and while there are good scenes, they can be so jumbled in the timeline of events that it's probably best to speak on the book from afar. The overall story is unique and serves as an excellent exploration on colonialism and its effects. It's not the best thing I've ever read, but it's still moderately impressive.

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