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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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The Mimic Men: A Novel Paperback – August 14, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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This is the story of a brilliant youth who grows up on the Caribbean island Isabella. The island is a hotbed of racial strife involving Whites, Blacks, mixed Caribs, and Indians, the narrator belonging to the last group. His mother is from a wealthy Muslim family and his father a school teacher turned religious hermit.

By graduation, Ranjit Singh gladly leaves the country to study in London. But his direction is muddled, he wanders, and marries a woman who likes to take charge. They decide to return to Isabella, but on docking he realizes why he left. Making the best of it, he and his wife become wealthy landlords, hang out with an international group, become incredibly bored, and Sandra leaves him. Adrift, Ranjit and a childhood friend, Hok Browne, who also has returned from London, cook up a very ambitious plan to nationalize Isabella. One wonders if decision making is Ranjit's best suit.
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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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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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Format: Paperback
The Mimic Men (1967) is a first person narrative by a West Indian named Ralph Singe that purports to be a memoir about his life. Singe grows up in relative prosperity on the fictional Caribbean island of Isabella, though he is torn between the lower middle class status of his government functionary father and his mother’s rich family, and then goes to England for university. When he returns, he gets caught up in Isabella’s post-colonial politics and for a time is head of government before the inevitable roils of Third World politics brings him back down.

All this summary is not really spoiler as the memoirs are not chronological and Singe alludes to various points of his life repeatedly in his narrative.

I started out really liking this book but began to grow tired of the relative lack of drama. Interesting things happen to Singe, but because they are not presented so much as described (there is very little dialogue, for example), the inherent interest of the situations is somewhat diluted. Not that such an approach can’t work: it works brilliantly in, say, Catcher in the Rye or Lolita, but in those books, the narrator is much more compelling than Singe, who is no Holden Caulfield or Humbert Humbert by a long shot.

Nor does it help that the most interesting part of Singe’s life—his government tenure—is given fairly short shrift toward the end of the book.

I absolutely loved Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas, which came out a few years before Mimic Men, but there the tone was more tragi-comic than in the later book, and perhaps that’s what’s missing here. In any case, if you want to read early Naipaul, Mr. Biswas is the one to go with, not Mimic Men.
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