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Miguel Street Paperback – July 23, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One of the few contemporary writers of whom we can speak in terms of greatness.” –Mel Gussow, Newsday

“Miguel Street is the Bowery, the Tenderloin, and the Catfish Row of Trinidad’s Port of Spain–its citizens a loony multitude whose knavery often rises from real kinship with pathos and tragedy. . . . Naipaul is at his best in these swift caricatures of human depravity.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Amusing and poignant. . . . Excellent reading.” –Chicago Tribune

“Naipaul does not tell stories. By some miraculous sleight-of-hand he takes you to Port of Spain and shows you the rich, bawdy, consequential lives of the Trinidadians, as though there were no intervening veil of words. . . . I rather suspect the mantle of Chekhov has fallen on Mr. Naipaul’s shoulders.” –Robert Payne, Saturday Review

From the Inside Flap

?A stranger could drive through Miguel Street and just say ?Slum!? because he could see no more.? But to its residents this derelict corner of Trinidad?s capital is a complete world, where everybody is quite different from everybody else. There?s Popo the carpenter, who neglects his livelihood to build ?the thing without a name.? There?s Man-man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion, and the dreaded Big Foot, the bully with glass tear ducts. There?s the lovely Mrs. Hereira, in thrall to her monstrous husband. In this tender, funny early novel, V. S. Naipaul renders their lives (and the legends their neighbors construct around them) with Dickensian verve and Chekhovian compassion.
Set during World War II and narrated by an unnamed?but precociously observant?neighborhood boy, Miguel Street is a work of mercurial mood shifts, by turns sweetly melancholy and anarchically funny. It overflows with life on every page.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 23, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375713875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375713873
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Naipaul's novel about daily life on Miguel Street is a masterful piece of literature. The characters are colorful and believable, the writing style is fluid and very readable, and the issues raised about (post)colonialism and neocolonialism are oh so real. Entertaining at times; thought-provoking at others--Naipaul's MIGUEL STREET is a must read for any fan of literary genius.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HORAK on November 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
A beautiful portrait of the inhabitants of Miguel Street located in a derelict corner of Trinidad's Capital Port of Spain. Set during World War II, the story is narrated by a precociously observant neighbourhood boy. The mood shifts from sweet melancholy to anarchical fun as we discover the lives of Popo the carpenter, Man-man staging his own crucifixion, Big Foot the bully or the lovely Mrs Hereira in thrall to her monstrous husband. An amusing and poignant book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
i agree with alejandro's review: what you bring to this collection of short stories greatly affects how you perceive it. as someone who has (temporarily) left a post-colonial country, i can understand the yearning of the characters to escape, to find a better life, even though most of them aren't quite sure of how to escape and what exactly a better life entails. does the narrator really escape, though? the last paragraph describes him (or at least his shadow) as a dwarf on the tarmac, as though he were deformed (no offense meant to small people) or permanently marked by his efforts to leave somehow. i read "a way in the world" before "miguel street" and it's almost frightening to see how much "miguel street" is a portent of the despair, isolation, and desire in "a way in the world."
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book was a standard for Literature when I was going to high school. Ten years later, the characters are still as colourful, the prose just as lyrical, and Naipaul still weaves a wonderful story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a collection of inter-connected stories and character sketches set in the island of Trinidad, the author's birthplace, years ago when he was a boy. The tales are charming, some funny, some sad, some both, and all are told in Naipaul's short, mostly (if not completely) perfect sentences. Anyone interested in the life and culture of the Caribbean would do well to read and re-read this little gem of a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pankaj Saxena on May 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
The first novel of Naipaul, `The Mystic Masseur', was published in 1957. But the first written work of fiction by him was, `Miguel Street'. He had completed it even before `The Mystic Masseur', but had published it only in 1959.

It feels like his first novel. Every chapter is based on a character and his own simple story. All of them are nearly tramps and have tried their life in various ways, but in the end almost all of them return to Miguel Street. If `The Mystic Masseur' is set in the rural Trinidad, then `Miguel Street' is set in the urban Trinidad, its capital Port of Spain. Some of the characters even seem to be of fairy tales.

But the smallness of Trinidad is also felt here. We can feel it at many places like

`There is no stupid pride among Trinidad craftsmen. No one is a specialist.'

The sense of being isolated and unimportant is also eternally present. One can feel oneself to be on the periphery of civilization, eager to know what happens at the centre. One can feel oneself to be bored and neglected. There is no spiritual consolation also. The civilization which they had, was long gone. The new one had never come.

Titus Hoyt says in the novel,

`This fort was built at a time, when the French and them was planning to invade Trinidad.'

We gasped.

We had never realized that anyone considered us so important'

The World War II brought some actions to them as the people from the centre of the world, i.e., Americans came there.

`Then the war came. Hitler invaded France and Americans invaded Trinidad. For the first time in Trinidad, there was work for everybody, and the Americans paid well.'

`Miguel Street' doesn't mean much for an outsider.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in 1978. Twenty years later, it is still serious, funny and most importantly is a pungent reminder of times past.
Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ryan on December 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Here is 1940s Port of Spain, Trinidad. Miguel Street is a melting pot at the ends of the British Empire, which, during WWII, is already on the ebb. Naipaul's first written and third published book tells the stories of Miguel Street's characters from the point of view of a young boy. Each of the stories are illuminating portraits of the limitations of colonial life. If you're looking for parables about poverty or racism, you won't find them here. Instead, you will find Naipaul's genius penchant for telling sad stories with great humor; and, rather than lessening the sense of the tragedy, Naipaul's humor makes it that much more impactful. Those who are also fans of Paul Theroux will recognize than the later writer used "Miguel Street" as the DNA for his "Hotel Honolulu."
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