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The Mimic Men: A Novel Paperback – August 14, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375707174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375707179
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A Tolstoyan spirit.... The so-called Third World has produced no more brilliant literary artist.”–John Updike, The New Yorker

“Ambitious and successful.”–The Times (London)

From the Inside Flap

A profound novel of cultural displacement, The Mimic Men masterfully evokes a colonial man's experience in a postcolonial world.

Born of Indian heritage and raised on a British-dependent Caribbean island, Ralph Singh has retired to suburban London, writing his memoirs as a means to impose order on a chaotic existence. His memories lead him to recognize the paradox of his childhood during which he secretly fantasized about a heroic India, yet changed his name from Ranjit Kripalsingh. As he assesses his short-lived marriage to an ostentatious white woman, Singh realizes what has kept him from becoming a proper Englishman. But it is the return home and his subsequent immersion in the roiling political atmosphere of a newly self-governed nation that ultimately provide Singh with the necessary insight to discover the crux of his disillusionment.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
The story is set on a fictional Caribbean isle and has to do with the displacement of a British Indian who is in search of his cultural and spiritual identity. The inner angst resulting from the end of British colonialism and its aftermath are explored here in elegant, poetic prose. But it's hard to relate to a self-pitying main character who visits the local whorehouse on a regular basis. Many profound thoughts emerge about the nature of identity and meaning in a post-colonial world, but sometimes the thoughts get lost in the stylized langauge. I personally don't relate to these themes but if you feel you do this will be a rewarding reading experience from one of the most respected modern English authors. The low star rating is simply because I need a tense plot to keep my interest.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Eric Maroney on January 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
V.S. Naipaul's true genius is found in his travel books (An Area of Darkness, Among the Believers, Beyond Belief) while his novels often suffer the fate of over worn, if generally comfortable shoes: you feel as if you have trodden this ground before. This is not the case with his best works of fiction: A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, and In a Free State; here Naipaul allows the stories to tell themselves, even when his superb hand - so masterful and deliberate - is the god of his created world. We get Naipaul but we get Naipaul at his distilled best: pure and unalloyed. The Mimic Men has moments of the genius Naipaul; there his the sense of almost nauseating enclosure that he can generate, as if the story was occurring inside a paper bag; there is the minute dissection of each moment of experience, as if he was an experienced vivisectionist with no qualms about slicing the flesh razor thin for our examination. He paints a world where returns are ever diminishing, and the very effort to continue living seems not a natural pursuit, but somehow supernatural in is scope. If you have the fortitude to read many of Naipaul's novels you will have the fortune to see him hone is craft as he tries to answer four or five vexing existential questions. The question for the reader is, do you want to see this done through four or five often vexing novels? For me, the answer is yes. No one can make you squirm better than Naipaul.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alfred L. Hathcock on October 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
This novel confronts the effects of colonialism on national and individual identity and character. This is a prominent focal point of Sir Naipaul's work. The central character of this work is an isolated and deposed island politician writing his story in the anonymnity of his London refuge: a hotel chosen for its distinctly shabby and monastic qualities. This once flamboyant and able man is now impelled,as perhaps his last significant act, to write his story.This is done without emotion, even one so shallow as self pity. Yet the story is told in a vivid and brutal style with the honesty of one driven by the need to confess a crime.This novel expresses a complex theme through a character so well developed that he tells the story of a society whose identity is dominated by not having one.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Donal A. O'Neill on October 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of Naipaul's earlier novels and in it he addresses many of the same themes that occupy his latter, and masterful "A Place in the World". These include the transition of a multi-ethnic Caribbean society from colony to independence; the culture-shock of a colonial exposed to higher education in Europe; post-independence power struggles and, ultimately, failure, corruption and slow descent into near chaos arising from lack of any dynamic other than lust for power and wealth. The cultural impoverishment of Asian communities cut off from their cultural roots are poignantly described here, as in much of Naipauls's other work (including the masterful "A House for Mr.Biswas", where the treatment is tragic-comic). As always Naipaul's evocation of place and character is acute, bleak and wholly convincing. This said however, the major criticism may be less one of the book than of this particular reader. There is only so much reality that can be comfortably absorbed in a single novel. The fact that the first-person narrator, unsparing in his confessions of mean-mindedness, lechery, callousness and greed, is so contemptible a human-being makes it very hard for the reader not to feel soiled by the time the whole sordid tale is done. I first read this book fourteen years ago, and retained a very unpleasant memory of it for this reason. On re-reading I found that my earlier perception was sustained. It is a splendid literary achievement - but a very distasteful one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. C. Buell on June 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
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.
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The Mimic Men: A Novel
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