The Mimic Men – V. S. Naipaul (1967)

1960s: Days of Rage

“Inevitably, a simple synopsis of V. S. Naipaul’s new novel must, by creating the impression of alternatively rolling and thundering action, wholly distort its nature and quality. The scene shifts from rooming-house London to the Caribbean island of ‘Isabella,’ a British dependency, and back to England again. The time covers nearly 20 years in the life of the narrator-protagonist, Ralph Singh, a native of Isabella and later a political exile-refugee from it. (Naipaul, who has lived in London since his Oxford years, was born and raised in Trinidad, where his Indian grandfather had settled.) The recollected events of the novel include Singh’s intermittent and furtive sexual history, his marriage to an English girl, whose Byzantine taste in cosmetics includes painting her breasts gaudily, and the gradual corrosion and final disintegration of the marriage beneath the tropical moon. ‘The Mimic Men’ also tells us how Singh amassed a fortune, in consequence…

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