The Mystic Masseur


By V. S. Naipaul

cover image of The Mystic Masseur

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The Nobel Prize-winning author delivers a Dickensian novel that traces the unlikely career of a failed schoolteacher and village masseur who becomes a revered mystic, a thriving entrepreneur, and the most beloved politician in Trinidad. 
“No one else … seems able to employ prose fiction so deeply as the very voice of exile.” —The New York Review of Books
In this slyly funny and lavishly inventive novel—his first—V. S. Naipaul chronicles the ascent of the impecunious village masseur Ganesh Ramsumair. To understand a little better, one has to realize that in the 1940s masseurs were the island’s medical practitioners of choice. As one character observes, “I know the sort of doctors they have in Trinidad. They think nothing of killing two, three people before breakfast.”
Ganesh’s journey is variously aided and impeded by a Dickensian cast of rogues and eccentrics. There’s his skeptical wife, Leela, whose schooling has made her excessively, fond. of; punctuation: marks!; and Leela’s father, Ramlogan, a man of startling mood changes and an ever-ready cutlass. There’s the aunt known as The Great Belcher. There are patients pursued by malign clouds or afflicted with an amorous fascination with bicycles. Witty, tender, filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of Trinidad’s dusty Indian villages, The Mystic Masseur is Naipaul at his most expansive and evocative.
The Mystic Masseur