A bad choice for a book to read after Oscar Wilde and Tom Robbins. The former has a rich language and the latter, a great sense of humour. I have heard from people that Naipual’s books are humorous. May be my sense of humour is pathetic, I didn’t see any humour in this book.
The book is the story of Ganesh, his failure as a primary teacher, his transformation into a mystic, a writer and finally an MBE. The story is set in Trinidad and concentrates on the small Indian community settled there. I am confused about the location and the people. They speak a weird dialect of English and it is weird to an extent that the dialgoues began to irritate me. Every sentence spoken in adorned with man or girl (and sometimes both) and no where grammatically correct. If the dialogues are getting on your nerves, the narration doesn’t help much. It is bland and sometimes makes you skip it. And why do newspapers in Trinidad carry reviews of Hindi films?
Ganesh’s metamorphosis is not totally belieavable. He appears to be a useless, good for nothing guy at one time, and the know-it-all mystic with a lot of self confidence at other times. There is nothing about Ganesh which the reader would remember. Behary, Ganesh’s friend, is an interesting character. I enjoyed the conversations between Behary (Suruj Poopa, as in Suruj ke pappa) and his wife, Suruj Mooma (you know what that means). Ganesh’s wife and his father-in-law add a bit of garnishing.
I appreciate the subtle, polished humour of P G Wodehouse and also in the face, wacky humour of Tom Robbins. Naipaul’s humour lies somewhere in between, and, I think, is targetted at the Indian community settled overseas. I can imagine the migrated Indians reading and laughing at the Indian culture and practices. I might be wrong about who his target audience is, but I am sure I am not one of them. This was my first Naipaul book, and in all probability, this will be the last one too.