Book review: The mimic men by V. S. Naipaul

July 3, 2008

Title: The mimic men
Author: V. S. Naipaul
Pages: 301

The author

Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (born August 17, 1932 in Trinidad and Tobago) is a British writer of Indo-Trinidadian descent. He was educated at the University of Oxford in England.

Naipaul’s personal life is shocking – he frequently cheated on his wife with prostitutes, ill-treated her (to the extent that he admitted he may have caused her death) and welcomed another woman into his house the day after her funeral.

Naipaul won numerous honours and awards including the Booker prize, the Nobel prize in literature and a knighthood.

The plot

The Mimic Men is a fictional memoir of Kripal Singh. Singh is a resident of the island of Isabella, a British colony. The island’s natives are black but due to colonization a large number of Indians, Asians and Europeans also stay on the island (Interestingly, Naipaul is the descendent of identured labourers shipped to Trinidad from India).

Kripal’s father is a government servant and a bit of a crackpot. While his children are still younh he abandons his family and starts a revolution against the government. After spending some time in jail his father moves into the wilderness and turns into a spiritual leader of some sort.

After completing his schooling Kripal goes to study in England at a college whose name is never mentioned (it is referred to as “the School”). While in England he meets a British girl called Sandra. He returns to Isabella with Sandra and becomes a property developer.

He makes a gigantic fortune in real estate. Unfortunately his marriage falls apart and Sandra leaves the island. Kripal becomes a politician and finally ends up in exile in London with nothing to do but write his memoirs.

The verdict

This was a tedious read. The narrator spends a lot of time exploring his inner feelings and the story is not very gripping.

Not recommended unless you enjoy lengthy intellectual discourses on “a search for identity”.


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