Read Măscăricii by V.S. Naipaul Free Online
Book Title: Măscăricii|
The author of the book: V.S. Naipaul
Edition: Editura Univers
Date of issue: 2007
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 539 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.9
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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.
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Read information about the authorNaipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.
At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarship to study abroad. In the introduction to the 20th-anniversary edition of A House for Mr. Biswas, he reflected that the scholarship would have allowed him to study any subject at any institution of higher learning in the British Commonwealth, but that he chose to go to Oxford to do a simple degree in English. He went, he wrote, "in order at last to write...." In August 1950, Naipaul boarded a Pan Am flight to New York, continuing the next day by boat to London.
50 years later, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad "V. S." Naipaul was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories."
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