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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.


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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.

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. 4 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 5 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.

  5. 5 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.

  6. 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...

  7. 4 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….

  8. 5 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.

  9. 5 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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..

  12. 5 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elena Tănăsescu

    "...desi era trecut de unu noaptea, noi inca ne plimbam, dupa nenumarate ceaiuri fierbinti. Asta desi emotia, una pe care nu o mai incercasem pana atunci, ar fi fost suficienta sa-mi dea energie. Pe acele strazi pustii...pe acele strazi parasite mi s-a facut o declaratie care m-a miscat, desi am incercat sa-i rezist. Beatrice hotarase ca ii eram cel mai bun prieten. Mi-a explicat semnificatia cuvantului, si mi-era teama ca astepta o invitatie in camaruta mea in forma de carte. Dar nu; ne-am plimbat "...desi era trecut de unu noaptea, noi inca ne plimbam, dupa nenumarate ceaiuri fierbinti. Asta desi emotia, una pe care nu o mai incercasem pana atunci, ar fi fost suficienta sa-mi dea energie. Pe acele strazi pustii...pe acele strazi parasite mi s-a facut o declaratie care m-a miscat, desi am incercat sa-i rezist. Beatrice hotarase ca ii eram cel mai bun prieten. Mi-a explicat semnificatia cuvantului, si mi-era teama ca astepta o invitatie in camaruta mea in forma de carte. Dar nu; ne-am plimbat inainte si inapoi in jurul locuintei ei...iar cand in cele din urma, ne-am oprit in fata casei ei si a venit momentul sa ne despartim, am constatat ca nu astepta nimic de la mine...."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mauro Kleber

    Na verdade 3,5 estrelas. Um relato maravilhosamente bem escrito, um pouco angustiante, não sei se pelo humor britânico ou cinismo do autor, a escrever sobre temas tão próximos a nós, habitantes de republiquetas latino-americanas , prisioneiros de um destino que nos faz sentirmos como eternos e exóticos expatriados quando tentamos fugir de nós mesmos.

  15. 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!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Smellycat

    There must be a corner in V.S. Naipaul's heart living loneliness. Naipaul never really resided somewhere, he was always on the way to seek a way to be free. This book is about memory, love, friendship and childhood but actually nothing, it brings me plenty of emptiness after reading. I miss Naipaul.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Enamul Reza

    এ বইয়ের কাছে আমাকে নিয়ে আসে নইপলের মৃতযু। আর বইটির নায়ক রঞজিত কৃপাল সিং এর জীবন থেকে আমি আবিষকার করি শেকড়হীন পৃথিবীর এক মহান লেখককে। উপনযাসটির গলপ বরণহীন, যেমন রঙ নেই জীবনের উদদেশযহীনতায় ডুবতে থাকা এর পাতর-পাতরীদের জীবনেও। কিনতু ঐ অনধকারের আকরষণ এবং আধুনিক পৃথিবীতে এইসব মানুষের বেঁচে থাকার গলপ কত শকতিশালী গদয আর সততার সঙগেই না করেছেন নইপল। তাকে পরণাম। এ বইয়ের কাছে আমাকে নিয়ে আসে নইপলের মৃত্যু। আর বইটির নায়ক রঞ্জিত কৃপাল সিং এর জীবন থেকে আমি আবিষ্কার করি শেকড়হীন পৃথিবীর এক মহান লেখককে। উপন্যাসটির গল্প বর্ণহীন, যেমন রঙ নেই জীবনের উদ্দেশ্যহীনতায় ডুবতে থাকা এর পাত্র-পাত্রীদের জীবনেও। কিন্তু ঐ অন্ধকারের আকর্ষণ এবং আধুনিক পৃথিবীতে এইসব মানুষের বেঁচে থাকার গল্প কত শক্তিশালী গদ্য আর সততার সঙ্গেই না করেছেন নইপল। তাকে প্রণাম।

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sakarkral

    "Siyasetçi" denen şeyin ne olduğunu okurundan daha iyi bilmeyen bir yazar, siyasetçiyi birinci ağızdan anlatmaya kalkarsa sonuç ne olur? Elbette facia. Taklitçiler, çok kötü bir roman. https://okumadansonra.blogspot.com/20...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I really struggled with this book. I just didn't get it. I kept going until the end and it did get better near the very end but I still don't get what the author was trying to say

  20. 5 out of 5

    Zoonanism

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

  21. 4 out of 5

    Manish Katyal

    An incredible writer.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christian Schwoerke

    I was disgruntled with this novel, frustrated that Naipaul had not made something of his narrator and his story, that all of it appeared to be no more than maundering. I began to wonder, then, if that hadn't been the point: that just as Singh had failed to find himself in the other, more active events of his life, so he had failed also to distinguish himself as anything other than a literary mimic. More on this later... This is the story of a man of Indian descent (with Aryan aspirations and remn I was disgruntled with this novel, frustrated that Naipaul had not made something of his narrator and his story, that all of it appeared to be no more than maundering. I began to wonder, then, if that hadn't been the point: that just as Singh had failed to find himself in the other, more active events of his life, so he had failed also to distinguish himself as anything other than a literary mimic. More on this later... This is the story of a man of Indian descent (with Aryan aspirations and remnants of Hindu beliefs) who grew up on the small Caribbean island Isabella (a fictional English protectorate). Ralph Singh informs us at the outset that he is in exile in London, just forty years old and now writing his memoirs. By novel's end, we learn that he's spent nearly 14 months working on these memoirs, which consist of sections that detail, in order, his marriage and financial boom, his upbringing, and his political career and exile. The memoirist begins his story with a setting and image that foster a particular mood, one which he claims to be indulging in even as he concludes his memoirs. Standing in the attic of the hotel in which he's living in London, Ralph stares out at the city line, a near bombsite, and the falling, swirling snow. In the mix is his landlord's recent death, a proximate christening, and an old unidentified photograph of a blurry woman upon whom he tries to affix a story about being a stranger in a foreign land. The indignity of her anonymity spurs him to consider how he must leave behind a story of value. "[M]y present mood," Singh writes, "leaps the years and all the intervening visits to this city ... leaps all this to link with that first mood which came to me in Mr. Shylock's attic; so that all that came in between seems to have occurred in parenthesis. Which is the reality? The mood, or the action in between, resulting from that mood and leading up to it again?" What precisely is this mood? How does memoirist Singh make the parenthetical aspects of his life (the marriage, the wealth, the upbringing with its associations of youthful friends and relatives, the political career that was all empty bombast) serve that mood? Of the parenthetical matter, Singh writes at novel's end: "I see all its emotions as, profoundly, fraudulent. So writing, for all its initial distortion, clarifies, and even becomes a process of life." How does the blurred picture viewed in juxtaposition to the blurred outlines of the rooftops of London signal a mood of displacement? The girl in the picture is in a green setting, with threes and a fence, grass underneath. _She_ would be out of place in London, he thinks, and so is he, though he chooses to reside there while putting his memoirs in shape. What does the future hold? Perhaps writing a long history, but at the moment he ponders this, he is certain that he does not want to enter again into events that might move other people. He has come to see himself and his emotions as false, as belonging to someone who has no investment in his surroundings, whether his place of birth and youth, or in London, where he was educated and from whence he launched himself into business and politics. There is in this a literary echo of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, another self exile who has run the gauntlet to find that he has been no more than a tool for others. Ellison's battle royal is mimicked (Ralph's cousin Cecil spurs him and another Indian to fight, a bemused Negro watching with Cecil), and Ralph's political career is reminiscent of the fraudulent one that the invisible man experienced. Both Singh and the invisible man are recounting what has transpired. While the invisible man is looking forward to unveiling lies and shedding light before he next acts, Singh seems unable to contemplate how he might be able to act, except as a writer, at a safe remove from life. For all the clarity and expressiveness of Singh's language in this book, the narrative is shrouded in that quiet, oppressive, blurry mood Singh describes at the outset. The finest details of his marriage and his childhood do not begin to show the whole picture. Nothing coalesces, and this is particularly true when by instinct Singh becomes a successful businessman, where even real details are absent. Similarly, the career in politics is described without reference to politics, just another murky description of his instinctual movements. What's left? To write and to shed light on the past. If the comparison to Invisible Man is to hold, this novel then is another mimicked gesture, another activity taken up by a man who has no sense of place or self... The irony, of course, is that Naipaul himself found a place for himself, though much of his life was spent in detailing the events and lives of people and lands far removed from his own.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lansing Kam

    MASTERPIECE

  24. 4 out of 5

    William Harris

    Minic men critiques the tragic futility of post-colonial political leadership. It's protagonist is a collage of the west indian leaders who took their territories to independence. He is a scholar in England; son of a petit-bourgeoisie (by island standards); marries a white woman; he's the east-indian political alley of a charismatic african. For the contemporary Caribbean leader, it's a reminder that ideas like uniqueness and sovereignty are overrated...even fallacious, corruption is easy and th Minic men critiques the tragic futility of post-colonial political leadership. It's protagonist is a collage of the west indian leaders who took their territories to independence. He is a scholar in England; son of a petit-bourgeoisie (by island standards); marries a white woman; he's the east-indian political alley of a charismatic african. For the contemporary Caribbean leader, it's a reminder that ideas like uniqueness and sovereignty are overrated...even fallacious, corruption is easy and that in the end we are all acting roles.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Salvatore

    A solid novel that's on such uneasy ground (perhaps that's why it tides in and out, refusing to narrate in chronological order). Naipaul has never been one to shy away of strong, pessimistic opinions of what happens to the colonised nations and people after the colonists leave. What is their future, after their exports are all exhausted and exported? The title suggests a lot. And the novel suggests that it's a bad idea - for the developing world to use the developed world as a model for behaviour A solid novel that's on such uneasy ground (perhaps that's why it tides in and out, refusing to narrate in chronological order). Naipaul has never been one to shy away of strong, pessimistic opinions of what happens to the colonised nations and people after the colonists leave. What is their future, after their exports are all exhausted and exported? The title suggests a lot. And the novel suggests that it's a bad idea - for the developing world to use the developed world as a model for behaviour. For the loss of one's own culture and the adoption of someone else's can only end poorly - in confusion, in resentment, in misunderstanding, in war. As the narrator of this book becomes a dandy, the mimicry of the island of Isabella to European ideals is just a façade, a partial presence, a basis in nothing other than wanting power, a power that doesn't exist in the New World because the New World doesn't have the Eurasian shrines that have been there for millennia with religions equally as old. Some uppers: --'We become what we see of ourselves in the eyes of others'. (25) --'"A father," she had said to me at our first meeting, "is one of nature's handicaps."' (50) --'An audience is never important. An audience is made up of individuals most of whom are likely to be your inferiors. A disagreeable confession; but I have never believe the actor who says he loves his audience. He loves his audience in the way he might love his dogs.' (136) --'Everything about me became temporary and unimportant; I was consciously holding myself back for the reality that lay elsewhere.' (141) --'Success is success; once it occurs it explains itself.' (152) --'We, here on our island, handling books printed in this world, and using its goods, had been abandoned and forgotten. We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World, one unknown corner of it, with all its reminders of the corruption that came quickly to the new.' (175) --'Wendy was as thin as her mother but more engagingly ugly.' (202) --'"Let me tell you, boy. Take a tip from somebody who has seen the world, eh. Don't."' (204) --'Fulfilment creates its own illusions.' (278)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vik OMGWTFBBQ

    The Mimic Men is the fictional autobiography of Ralph Singh, although I suspect there is a lot of personal narrative from Naipaul's own life within. Ralph is a perpetual outsider - never completely comfortable with his own place in society - and understandably so. He is of Indian descent but born on the forgotten outskirts of colonial Britain. He leaves his home of Isabella, a fictional Caribbean isle likely modeled on Trinidad where Naipaul was himself raised, and goes to study in Britain. He r The Mimic Men is the fictional autobiography of Ralph Singh, although I suspect there is a lot of personal narrative from Naipaul's own life within. Ralph is a perpetual outsider - never completely comfortable with his own place in society - and understandably so. He is of Indian descent but born on the forgotten outskirts of colonial Britain. He leaves his home of Isabella, a fictional Caribbean isle likely modeled on Trinidad where Naipaul was himself raised, and goes to study in Britain. He returns shortly after he finishes University and a series of events bring him both great success and abject failure on the island. He returns to London once more, and it's from that vantage point that he writes this narrative. But the plot doesn't really matter, it's not that kind of book. It's a perfectly cohesive storyline, sure, but given the lack of central plot or conflict, it is probably better described as a series of episodes that paint a life and world in broad strokes. Naipaul writes brilliantly and has complete mastery over a sentence. His ability to create three-dimensional, ambiguous characters is impressive, and this combined with the lack of "plot" really mimics real life to an extent where it's hard to believe it's fiction. This approach could spell disaster for a lesser writer, but at almost no point did I find myself bored, except perhaps in the political section where Naipaul drifts away from the personal narrative and takes a more vague, conceptual style. But realism itself doesn't make for a memorable read. What really stands out is the author's rare ability to express truths, however ugly they may be, about the world and ourselves. Which isn't to say that this is a depressing novel, although it certainly doesn't sing with any kind of joie de vivre. It's one of those rare books that speaks truths regarding the human condition that you've vaguely felt but couldn't really place, and articulates them with such clarity that it feels like an itch has finally been scratched. This is the first of Naipaul that I've read, and from what I understand, it's not considered his best novel. In which case, I have a lot to look forward to as I explore his catalog further.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mashael Alamri

    في أماكنهم البعيدة المعزولة يشعر الجميع بأنهم أخف من الريشة حيث لا قيمة حقيقة للأشياء في مواجهة الكم الهائل من الإنتهاك الذي يشعر به أبناء المناطق المستعمرة , في إزابلا تلك القطعة الملاقاة على رقعة الزرقة الواسعة حيث الأسرار الكثيرة التي تفضي إلى الهرب كل شيء يصبح كابوساً ثقيلا , في المستعمرة الكاربية التي أنتجت رالف سنغ الذي يتحدث على لسانه الكاتب بكثير من السخرية والحزن والتخبط عميقة جداً كما هو مكتوب على غلاف الكتاب , نحن لانتسلى حينما نقرأها نحن نقف في عمق البطل ونحلل معه كل الأحداث التي يقد في أماكنهم البعيدة المعزولة يشعر الجميع بأنهم أخف من الريشة حيث لا قيمة حقيقة للأشياء في مواجهة الكم الهائل من الإنتهاك الذي يشعر به أبناء المناطق المستعمرة , في إزابلا تلك القطعة الملاقاة على رقعة الزرقة الواسعة حيث الأسرار الكثيرة التي تفضي إلى الهرب كل شيء يصبح كابوساً ثقيلا , في المستعمرة الكاربية التي أنتجت رالف سنغ الذي يتحدث على لسانه الكاتب بكثير من السخرية والحزن والتخبط عميقة جداً كما هو مكتوب على غلاف الكتاب , نحن لانتسلى حينما نقرأها نحن نقف في عمق البطل ونحلل معه كل الأحداث التي يقدمها لنا نيبول بكثير من التفاصيل التي تزيد المواقف أبداعاً كتابياً خاصةً مذكرات البطل المطرود من المصادفة التي كانت ليست أكثر من أشياء كتبت بين قوسين ( جزيرته والمنفى ) تنشأ حركته بطريقة تعطي إنطباعاً بأن كل شيء وجد رالف نفسه في وسطه كان مصادفة حيث لا شيء إلا الدوافع الداخلية للبطل التي هي وليدة الظروف الإجتماعية المتباينة والثقافات المختلطة والحرب وتوابع الإستعمار وكلمة ثورة تلك الرنانة التي وجدت لتنقل مجموعة من السكان إلى قلب الأحداث السياسية وتكشف لهم زيف اللعبة وصعوبتها ينتقلون من وسط الثورة والخطابات والحديث والإنتماءات لواجهة السلطة التي يتلاشى كل حلم وهدف بعد الإنتصار حيث يكتشفون أن السياسة أكبر من حلم العامّة وأكبر من حزب إشتراكي يدافع عن كل المنتهكين الحديث أسهل كثيراً من عبئ القرار ومن ثقل النظرات التي تنتظر المأمول منهم بعد الإنتصار , رائع جداً حديثه عن السياسة و عن الغضب الذي ما أن يصل لمراحله المتقدمة حتى يخمد فجأة من الداخل بلا أسباب ولا مبررات للمحيطين , إنتقالاته بين مراحل العمر وبين الاماكن حديثه عن لندن مأوى المنفيين أحياناً والمثقفين صوره تفاصيله الكثيرة عن الطبيعة وفي وصف الأجواء كانت رائعة أيضاً يكتب بلغة آسرة بالرغم من أن الترجمة لم تكن بالمستوى المأمول . نحن نصبح مانراه أنفسنا في عيون الآخرين * شكرا دكتورة نجود

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Ralph Singh, the main character and narrator in the novel, is a 40-year-old colonial minister from a newly independent country in the Caribbean, the island of Isabella. Singh lives in exile in London and is trying to impose order in his life by writing his memoires. He is seeking order, and trying to rewrite his life. He presents different times, places and situations, but is unable to follow a chronological order, thus not achieving the order he seeks. He is a displaced and disillusioned man. T Ralph Singh, the main character and narrator in the novel, is a 40-year-old colonial minister from a newly independent country in the Caribbean, the island of Isabella. Singh lives in exile in London and is trying to impose order in his life by writing his memoires. He is seeking order, and trying to rewrite his life. He presents different times, places and situations, but is unable to follow a chronological order, thus not achieving the order he seeks. He is a displaced and disillusioned man. To write his own story and to give meaning to his life and existence he considers the notions of history, colonisation, decolonisation, culture, race and politics. It is a very well written psychological and political novel. I find it interesting to read, mainly because it considers the relationship between the socio-political and the psychological consequences of imperialism. Having said that I struggled from time to time to read it, and had to put it away and continue my reading at a later time. The main reason was that I disliked the main character, Singh, and since he is the narrator it meant as a reader I spent most of the time in his mind. That, to me that shows how well written the book is and how well the technique by using only one narrator, and the constant shifts between past, present and future works.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pol

    A profound musing on the postcolonial condition of the colonial man. Moving and well written. Granted, it's not a thriller, for those stuck in 'what-happened-nextism mode' (as Rushdie puts it). Those who bemoan its lack of plot should be reading someone like John Grisham or any generic hack. Those who think it has nothing to say about the human condition evidently haven't read it thoroughly. Those who think it's entirely maudlin and like it only for its maudlin expressions, are better off readin A profound musing on the postcolonial condition of the colonial man. Moving and well written. Granted, it's not a thriller, for those stuck in 'what-happened-nextism mode' (as Rushdie puts it). Those who bemoan its lack of plot should be reading someone like John Grisham or any generic hack. Those who think it has nothing to say about the human condition evidently haven't read it thoroughly. Those who think it's entirely maudlin and like it only for its maudlin expressions, are better off reading a hack like Lang Leav. What is so interesting really, is Naipaul's exploration of post-colonial identity. Quite a number of interesting critical perspectives have been published. It's a seminal text of postcolonial studies, and deservedly. I hope this is the next Naipaul book to get the Everyman's Library treatment; I haven't read anything else from his oeuvre (yet) but this is genuinely promising.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    There is a lot to this book. Presented as a memoir, issues of class, race and a colonial past are explored through the eyes of one of Isabella's (a Caribbean Island) most interesting inhabitants: Ralph Singh. The biggest problem with The Mimic Men is its structure. Naipaul jumps from history to history and the book as a whole does not really have a plot or central narrative. This of course is not to say this book is bad - far from it - but I did find myself often lost or thinking 'where is this There is a lot to this book. Presented as a memoir, issues of class, race and a colonial past are explored through the eyes of one of Isabella's (a Caribbean Island) most interesting inhabitants: Ralph Singh. The biggest problem with The Mimic Men is its structure. Naipaul jumps from history to history and the book as a whole does not really have a plot or central narrative. This of course is not to say this book is bad - far from it - but I did find myself often lost or thinking 'where is this going?'. There are an array of powerful passages that attempt to explain the relationship between nationalism, the new world, and modern identity. Overall I wish I could give this book five stars, but its structure is too confusing. I recommend The Mimic Men to those who wish to learn about Caribbean literature or who have an interest in nationalism.

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