A Bend in the River

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Pan Macmillan, 2002 - Fiction - 326 pages
43 Reviews
'Brilliant and terrifying' Observer I had to be the man who was doing well and more than well, the man whose drab shop concealed some bigger operation that made millions. I had to be the man who had planned it all, who had come to the destroyed town at the bend in the river because he had foreseen the rich future. 'Salim, the narrator, is a young man from an Indian family of traders long resident on the coast of Central Africa. Salim has left the coast to make his way in the interior, there to take on a small trading shop of this and that, sundries, sold to the natives. The place is "a bend in the river"; it is Africa. The time is post-colonial, the time of Independence. The Europeans have withdrawn or been forced to withdraw and the scene is one of chaos, violent change, warring tribes, ignorance, isolation, poverty and a lack of prepartion for the modern world they have entered, or partially assumed as a sort of decoration. It is a story of historical upheaval and social breakdown. Naipaul has fashioned a work of intense imaginative force. It is a haunting creation, rich with incident and human bafflement, played out in an immense detail of landscape rendered with a poignant brilliance.' Elizabeth Hardwick 'Always a master of fictional landscape, Naipaul here shows, in his variety of human examples and in his search for underlying social causes, a Tolstoyan spirit' John Updike Set in an unnamed African country, the book is narrated by Salim, a young man from an Indian family of traders long resident on the coast. He believes "The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it." So he has taken the initiative; left the coast; acquired his own shop in a small, growing city in the continent's remote interior and is selling sundries - little more than this and that, really - to the natives. This spot, this 'bend in the river', is a microcosm of post-colonial Africa at the time of Independence: a scene of chaos, violent change, warring tribes, ignorance, isolation and poverty. And from this rich landscape emerges one of the author's most potent works - a truly moving story of historical upheaval and social breakdown.

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User Review  - dbsovereign - LibraryThing

Naipaul writes so well that the depressing becomes uplifting. This tale set at the bend of a river in Africa is superbly told. The only thing I can think to compare it to is listening to Joni Mitchell ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - delta351 - LibraryThing

Naipaul did a pretty smooth job in this post colonial Africa novel. I thought there was a good description of central African society in the 70's. Good caricatures of the various characters in the ... Read full review

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About the author (2002)

Born in Trinidad of Hindu parents, V. S. Naipaul was educated at Oxford University and has lived in Great Britain since 1950. With an exile's sensibility, Naipaul's writing is concerned with both the West Indies of his childhood and his strong identification with India. It focuses on personal and political freedom, the function of the writer and the nature of sexuality, and is characterized by clarity, subtlety, and detached irony of tone. The novel, Miguel Street (1959) describes the aberrant lives of a mean street in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), his most well-known work, solidified his reputation as a novelist. It tells the tragicomic story of the search for independence and identity of a Brahmin Indian living in Trinidad. Naipaul's work, even when he appears to be analyzing a picturesque character, is really an analysis of the entire society of Trinidad. The Middle Passage (1962) extends this analysis of the social order to other areas of the West Indies including Surinam, Martinique, Jamaica, and Guyana and finds that "the present character of the regions he visited express their history as colonial territories built on slave labor." Naipaul's work also deals with other parts of the world as well. In An Area of Darkness (1964), he expresses with sympathy and insight his observations on a trip to India, where he saw the loftiest of human values contrasted with the meanest physical suffering. His novel, A Bend in the River (1979) set in a new African nation, depicts the difficulties ordinary people face during times of political upheaval. A Turn in the South (1989) is a sensitive portrayal of the American South. Naipaul's works have elicited polarized responses, yet he is regarded by many as one of the best writers of our time, and he is a perennial nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he finally won on October 11, 2001.

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