Read A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul Online

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When Salim, a young Indian man, is offered a small business in Central Africa, he accepts. As he strives to establish himself, he becomes closely involved with the fluid and dangerous politics of the newly-dependent state....

Title : A Bend in the River
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780330487146
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 326 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Bend in the River Reviews

  • Sunil
    2019-06-05 09:29

    I always find it difficult to talk about the books I really like. Especially so if it is a Naipaul book. I read The Bendagain this year and found it much more ensorcelling than first time around . I guess what is so appealing about the book is its sense of diligence, a discipline which attempts to faithfully reflect the emerging world in Africa, as it is. No more no less. Perhaps, this is why, even after half a century and million more theses written on Africa, it still reflects the essence of Africa as none of them do.I suppose most paperback readers find it inane or even boring. But, bear in mind it's not a transit read. It's not a fiction of plot or story. It is a narrative of reality. And like all realities that are known to man, has no beginning or ending. It is a snapshot of a typical third world problem ie a recently independent state or culture desparately trying to hold onto something as its own in the wake of emerging post-modernism. But it never has or had anything of its own, anything that would give it an identity in the contemporary world apart from the history of having been a colony. Therefore it tries to manufacture a past – leaders, tribes, dances, cameraderie. Oh! the vanities, the denials, the insecurities, amidst all that is forming and unforming, changing choices, conflicting values. But it is what it is. Then there is the beauty of Naipaul prose. God! How it flows. Delicate, sublime, perfect yet letting the reader to make his own mind without patronizing or simplifying the sentiment. What I found most incredible in the book is the style used to pastiche the complex reality, so unhurriedly, so gracefully; as the book moves forward, it feels like a wave slowly falling and receding on a shore – adding something to the before, yet taking away something after; letting all the voices to speak on their own terms, to express their own realities to ultimately add up a grand reality that none of them can access in toto. Here is a wonderful instance – Indar is so ashamed of his third world identity that he desparately wants to trample his own past… ‘It isn’t easy to turn your back on the past. It isn’t something you can decide to do just like that. It is something you arm yourself for, or grief will ambush and destroy you. And Raymond with his first world citizenship, so much yearns for the True Africa that his own past has no bearing on his personal life. This leads to his wife's discontent and her confusion. Here's Raymond musing on Africa.. I was sitting in my room and thinking with sadness about all the things that have gone unrecorded. Do you think we can ever get to know the truth about what has happened in Africa in the last hundred or even fifty years? All the wars, all the rebellions, all the leaders, all the defeats?It doesn’t occur to you when you are reading it but as you move along, as the impressions of their characters are better formed , suddenly, somewhere in the next chapter perhaps, it occurs to you , that these two completely different men from completely different worlds are so unknowingly seeking each other’s past. They are only allowed to seek, ...Indar seducing Yvette or Raymond wanting to be Mommsen of Africa .., but never find. But they cant give up.Hence the world is what it is, always in movement.

  • Alex
    2019-06-04 05:18

    Say there's a bad guy. He's in a book; the book is well-written; fine, there are many books about bad guys. Say further that the book is written by a bad guy. Fine; lots of authors are dicks. Now say that the author is unaware that they're both bad guys. He hasn't written the book he thinks he's written. Now where are you?A Bend in the River's Salim is a bad guy. He's a bully and a coward. He doesn't know that he's a bully and a coward, and VS Naipaul doesn't seem to know either. (view spoiler)[In the end Salim saves his own skin, abandoning his ward to violence. He seems okay with it. (hide spoiler)] There's a shocking moment towards the end of the book: (view spoiler)[he savagely beats his mistress. "The back of my hand, from little finger to wrist, was aching; bone had struck bone." She seems okay with it. She calls him later. "Do you want me to come back? The road is quite empty. I can be back in twenty minutes. Oh, Salim. I look dreadful. My face is in an awful state. I will have to hide for days."The passage confused me because, from what I know about people, they don't like being beaten without a safeword. It confused me so much that I wanted to learn more about Naipaul. I had to know what was going through his head when he wrote this passage. I don't do this normally; I think books should be taken on their own terms. But this doesn't ring true for me. It disturbs me. What happened here? What I found was a quote from Naipaul about his own mistress, Margaret Murray: 'I was very violent with her for two days with my hand; my hand began to hurt...she didn't mind it at all. She thought of it in terms of my passion for her. Her face was bad. She couldn't really appear in public." So this is where the passage comes from. Salim and Naipaul are the same. So this is truth, right? In its own way?But: "She didn't mind it at all." That still doesn't seem right. It's the truth to Naipaul; is it the truth to Murray? So I kept looking, and I found a letter from her, in response to the above quote. She says, drily: "Vidia [Naipaul] says I didn’t mind the abuse. I certainly did mind." (hide spoiler)]So Naipaul is not telling the truth; he doesn't have the truth; he doesn't see the truth. He's the villain in his own story and he's incapable of realizing that he's written the villain in this one.And why would we read a book by someone who doesn't recognize truth? It's well-written. It's a well-written book by someone who is incorrect about who he is, what the world is. He's telling two stories: one about Africa, one about people. He doesn't know about Africa; he's only visited. He's certainly a racist. He doesn't know about people, either. The situation is imaginary; he made it up to illustrate his twisted, cynical, violent view of the world. The thing is that this is a good book. The plot is thin, and didn't engage me as much as I'd hope, but the ideas are powerful and disturbing. The writing is something like brilliant. It taught me something about a certain kind of person: the bad kind. To get into the head of someone as corrupt and as devoid of self-awareness as VS Naipaul is, that's interesting and even valuable. He has told the truth; he just doesn't know the truth he's told. Know your enemy, right? Here is the enemy.

  • Blair
    2019-06-02 05:18

    I read this book in Central Africa, during my Peace Corps service. I maintain that it is the best, most accurate depiction of Central African society - a broad term, believe me, I know, but still - that I have read.I found this novel engrossing and moving, and it inspired me to begin collecting Naipaul's other works; all of which are good, albeit not as good as this one.Naipaul has been criticized for denigrating third world countries and societies. Strange, since he comes from one - he was born in Trinidad but lives today in the UK - but the truth is that Naipaul's greatest sin is, as is too often the case, simply telling the truth. Many characters in this book, for example, feign sophistication they don't have, views they've lifted verbatim from a news clipping which they don't really understand at all, and in many other ways try to grapple with a modern world that is utterly beyond anything they comprehend, as they have only a village-level perspective on the world. These characterizations make liberal white people sitting in the West uncomfortable; but that's their problem, and - like those characters - arise primarily from a lack of perspective of what life is really like on the third-world side.

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-06-04 10:15

    My copy of this book is a POB (previously owned book). There are a lot of scribbles using different colors of highlighters (pink, yellow and green). In one of the pages is a name: Danielle Sidari. I googled her name yesterday and one of these days I will invite her to be my friend in Facebook. Who knows?Anyway, it is my first time to read a book with a lot of scribbles. Danielle is not a bad reader. Rather her comments and the phrases she underlined seem to indicate that she is smart. There is just a page (p 191) where she wrote: "Ironic" and this is the part where the narrator, Salim says that he finds adultery as horrible when in fact he is sleeping with a friend's wife, Yvette. Danielle seemed to have missed what Naipaul wrote on page 197, just 6 pages away from the line she finds ironic:"That (adultery) was my pride. It was also my shame, to have reduced my manhood just to that. There were times, especially during slack periods in the shop, when I sat at my desk (Yvette's photographs in the drawer) and found myself mourning. Mourning, in the midst of physical fulfillment which could not have been more complete! There was a time when I wouldn't have thought it possible."However, this novel is a lot more than adultery. This is the 1979 novel that established V. S. Naipaul, 2001 Nobel laurate, as a literary force. This is about an unnamed African country (they say it is Democratic Republic of Congo previously known as Zaire) after it gained independence from Belgium in June 1960. As for its theme, the opening line seems to be saying it all: The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it. The transfer of power from Belgium to the "Big Man" (they say this is President Mabutu Sese Seko) is a struggle in itself that reminds me of the transfer of power from Marcos to Aquino in 1986. But life has to go on and for me this is the overall theme of this book: the changing of time. There is a very nice allegory that opens the second chapter "The New Domain":"If you look at a column of ants on the march you will see that there are some who are stragglers or have lost their way. The column has no time for them; it goes on. Sometimes the stragglers die. But even this has no effect on the column. There is a little disturbance around the corpse, which is eventually carried off- and then it appears so light. And all the times the great busyness continues, and the apparent socialibility, that rite of meeting and greeting which ants travelling in opposite directions, to and from their nest, perform without fail."The above passage reminds me of how I was fascinated watching ants when I was a small child. This book is almost perfect but there is just one line that spoiled it for me. On page 186, I lost a bit of respect for Naipaul as he wrote:"But if women weren't stupid the world wouldn't go round"Danielle put a pink question mark on this. I hate sexist people. I do not have respect for men who belittle women. I have many women in my life and I love them all: my mother, my (only) wife, my daughter, my sister, my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, my grandmother, my aunts, my many cousins, my friends, my officemates, etc. Hence, I am giving this a two stars less than amazing. For the love of women in my humble life.

  • Rowena
    2019-06-05 06:15

    This book had such a promising start. Naipaul's descriptions of mid-20th Century Africa were great and I think he did a terrific job of highlighting tribalism and what it must feel like to be considered an outsider in Africa. There weren't too many likeable characters in this book. I started off liking Salim because he was a young Indian man who left his home on the coast to go to a town along old slave trails. However, his sexism was too much for me. Obviously Naipaul feels Africa is a dark continent with no hope for the future, I'm not sure why this book features so often on African book lists.Edited to add: I don't think I will be reading anymore Naipaul books. He is under the impression that there is not a single female writer, both living or dead, who can measure up to him. I can think of more than a few, sir :/

  • Books Ring Mah Bell
    2019-06-02 07:18

    4/30 here we go....I hear it sucks.5/7/09A total snoozefest.Naipaul is a Nobel Prize winner?That's crust!I did a bit of research on Naipaul as I was reading this thinking, "are you freaking kidding me?!?!" Rave reviews in Newsweek, New York Times.. and on and on and on. The Nobel Committee compared Naipaul to Joseph Conrad, saying, "Naipaul is Conrad's heir."Maybe that's just me sticking up for Conrad, author ofHeart of Darkness (and fellow Pole!)Or perhaps it's just me recognizing subpar literature for what it is.*The best part of this book was a sticky note on page 200 that said, "I can't believe you made it this far"Thanks, D. Russ!

  • Jon
    2019-06-03 09:24

    The book examines the post-colonial turmoil that occurs in an unnamed African country soon after it's independence. However, this isn't a political thriller. Naipaul takes his time with the story and the pace is fairly leasurely as the both the setting and the characters are introduced and then developed in great detail. The main character is Salim, a man of ethnic Indian descent who relocates to a small town in the central African country. There he buys a small shop, makes friends with other expatriates, and observes the birth pains of his newly adopted country. A minor rebellion is quickly crushed and the newly elected President begins to consolidate his power and become more and more dictatorial as time passes. The tension does ratchet up towards the end of the bookThe leasurely pace allows Naipaul to paint a complex picture of this slice of Africa. The culture is described in great detail and you get a feel for the town and it's people. The uneasy mix of modernality and traditional ways stands out quite often: a BigBurger franchise sits near market stalls where caterpillars, grubs, and monkeys can be bought for food. Throughout it all, the vestiges of the colonial past are still apparent. The town is dotted with the burned out ruins of the homes of the European masters who were tossed out when independence was achieved and their statues have been torn down or defaced.Naipaul has been accused of being pro-colonialism because it's not a happy picture he paints. Corruption is rampant and bribes become the only way to get things done. The number of Government officials seems to increase almost daily and many of them often have little to do except to think of new ways to shake the foreign residents down for bribes. Through it all, the President's rhetoric takes on more and more the trappings of demagoguery. It's not a happy picture, but it's a scenario that has played out in real life a few too many times.

  • Dave Russell
    2019-06-21 04:11

    This is a lousy boring book. Naipaul seems very interested in telling us How The World Works, or at least how it works in Africa (he does know Africa is a continent and not a country, right?) The problem, though, is that this is ostensibly a novel and not a work of non-fiction, and Naipaul isn't a very good storyteller. He mostly narrates rather than dramatizes. There are long, long passages where there is no dialogue, which would be all right if something interesting actually happened in those passages.I always thought it was a shame that Kurt Vonnegut never won the Nobel Prize for Literature. After having read Jelinek's The Piano Teacher and now this book, I think that actually speaks well for Vonnegut.Oh, and great idea using a river as your central symbol. I don't think that's ever been done before.

  • Brad Lyerla
    2019-06-06 10:14

    The news that V.S. Naipal had won the Nobel Prize for Literature came shortly after the shocking events of 9-11. The Wall Street Journal hailed the news and editorialized that Naipal was especially worthy as a third world author who embraced the values of the west. Quoting A BEND IN THE RIVER, the Journal argued that Naipal's message is that men in the third world should be judged by the same standards as men in the industrialized west. For some reason, the Journal's assessment of A BEND IN THE RIVER was on my mind as I read it the past several days.It does seem likely that Naipal would have sympathy for the notion that humankind everywhere should be judged by the same standards. He favors that those standards should reflect certain, not all, western political values. This is most vivid as he rejects the common view that everything about colonialism in Africa was evil, even offering an apology for slavery that is reminiscent of Aristotle's defense of slavery in the Ethics. (Aristotle describes the slave's role in a happy household as one of respect and importance . . . huh? But Naipal describes traditional slavery in east Africa in similar terms.)But that is not Naipaul's central message. A BEND IN THE RIVER explores the Hobbesian view that, in his natural state, each man is at war with every other man. That state of nature has been realized in times of civil war in post-colonial central Africa and Naipal's depiction of it is terrifying. Hobbes' solution to this horrifying natural state is for men to surrender their autonomy to a strong king who is given near absolute authority in exchange for order, security and safety. This solution has been attempted in post-colonial central Africa. Naipal's "Big Man" is just such a leader. But in late 20th century central Africa, he cannot guarantee his own safety against tribalism and violence, much less the safety of the populace. His government becomes only slightly less horrifying than no government at all.When I search for a message, I conclude that Naipal is wondering about the role of institutions in moderating the behavior of humans. He acknowledges that the institutions of colonialism protected the populace against violence, whereas the post-colonial politics of central Africa have failed to create such institutions. This is not an argument for colonialism. Rather, it is an inquiry about institutions and their role in protecting humankind from our natural state, as Hobbes' envisions it.

  • Riku Sayuj
    2019-05-31 05:10

    The characters felt like matchstick figures to me, somehow devoid of real life. I am not sure why though. The story is powerful and the flow of history is overwhelming, but I couldn't connect and experience it with them, and that was off-putting.

  • Nelson Zagalo
    2019-05-31 05:59

    É verdade que o tema é a descolonização, o antes e o pós, impactos e efeitos, mas é mais do que isso, é um questionamento sobre aquilo que nos motiva a fixar objetivos, a acreditar em destinos, a procurar mais e melhor. É visto a partir da perspectiva africana, ainda que por um indiano que ali nasceu, servindo o romance para dar conta do seu "coming-of-age".A escrita de Naipaul é boa mas não surpreende, pelo menos na tradução, já o tom imposto ao discurso esse sim é bastante particular, muito conseguido e coerente ao longo de todo o romance. Não é fácil definir esse tom, diria que é uma espécie de melancolia ausente, no sentido em que as emoções apontam para tristeza e desaire, mas ao mesmo tempo abnegação, permitindo que a atmosfera do livro se eleve, deixe respirar, sem condicionar o sentimento, e sem nunca permitir o definhamento completo da esperança. Como que sabendo que não valendo a pena, vai-se ainda assim fazendo o esforço, ainda que reduzido esse esforço, mas fazendo-o, como que para se manter à tona a respirar na espera por melhores dias. Tenho a sensação que se não tivesse passado por África já algumas vezes, teria dificuldade em conseguir compreender este tom, a mesma dificuldade que senti quando pela primeira vez tentei ver o filme "Terra Sonâmbula", adaptado do livro homónimo de Mia Couto, e que depois dessa experiência vi com outros olhos. Naipaul consegue recriar a atmosfera africana no fio das páginas, o languido fundido com a tristeza, mesclada com a vontade de continuar a lutar ainda que devagar. É verdade que Naipaul não mede as palavras, é muito direto, roça o racismo, e há mesmo quem não lhe perdoe, mas nada do que é dito pode ser retirado de contexto e colocado na boca do autor. Escrever de modo politicamente correto seria bom para os críticos europeus, mas nunca conseguiria chegar ao âmago, e dar-nos a sentir o que verdadeiramente se sente no interior daquele continente. Aliás o que mais me impressionou na leitura foi exatamente ler a África pelos olhos de um não europeu e de um não-africano, existe uma espécie de imparcialidade que se cola aos personagens de Naipaul que nos permitem ver o que até aqui não tínhamos visto noutras obras com a África em pano de fundo.“Quando se deu a independência, o povo da nossa região enlouqueceu de raiva e de medo – toda a raiva acumulada durante o período colonial, todos os medos tribais que entretanto tinham estado adormecidos. A gente da nossa região tinha sido muito maltratada, e não apenas pelos europeus e árabes, mas também por outros africanos; e quando veio a independência, recusaram-se a obedecer ao novo Governo instalado na capital."Houve um momento em que quase fechei o livro, quando o protagonista desata a bater na amante, algo que se cola a algumas histórias que entretanto circularam a propósito do próprio Naipaul. A julgar pela descrição realizada, acredito que o autor o tenha feito nesse seu passado, mas não podemos, mais uma vez, descontextualizar as ações. Não posso de forma alguma defender o autor, mas não posso esquecer o que é viver numa sociedade que aprova e incentiva esses comportamentos.Inevitavelmente o rio de Naipaul faz-nos recordar as trevas de Conrad, ainda que num tom distinto como já referi acima, e por isso difícil de aproximar. Naipaul sendo melancólico nunca permite a total negrura, não tem soluções, mas nunca fecha a porta, acredita claramente no ciclo da vida, sente-se ao longo de todo o livro, pela boca dos seus personagens, uma crença no princípio budista de que “Tudo é Impermanente!”.Publicado no VI (https://virtual-illusion.blogspot.com...)

  • Teresa Proença
    2019-06-24 10:27

    Pouco romance. Pouca emoção. Muita política. Muita vida africana. Grande aborrecimento. Desisti a meio.

  • Genia Lukin
    2019-06-22 04:22

    Why do people read this creep?Why do they indulge him, give him prizes, accolades, titles? How is this man's being the darling of the literary establishment not screaming to the world of a huge problem that we have in our priorities, in our regard, in our purported striving for equality or, I don't know, something.Here is a man who writes 19th Century sentiment - really, more of an 18th Marquis de Sadian sentiment - in the middle of the 20th, and no one in the establishment that doles out Nobels, Bookers, and knighthoods, seems to mind. Here is a man who apparently brutally beats his own mistress, but instead of going to jail and being forgotten there, like he should, he exemplifies post-colonial writing. The hell, world?So, is the man actually a good writer? Yeah, I guess he is. I did finish the book, aside from an undisclosed amount of glossing, after all. Is he a better writer than the women writers he derides? Eh, nope. Is he Nobel-worthy? I can't answer that because in my opinion half the Nobel laureates out there weren't, but he's no Nabokov, okay?That's not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that this man is harmful, destructive. not in the passive well-he-does-no-good-to-anyone-and-is-an-ass sort of way, but in the actual, intentional, egomaniacal sort of way that actively goes out there and makes the world a slightly worse place than it's been before. His books, and the establishment's promotion of them, actually outright wreck the world. They say that loving your wife and caring about what she thinks is stunting (yes, he says that, or his main character and narrator does), and that beating your mistress is a natural result of jealousy towards her husband. They imply that a little nobody with zero personality can automatically get the good-looking girl, and that he can then spit at her, and this is a cathartic scene.So here is my call out to the men and especially women of this world - don't rate his books highly, don't recommend them, don't forgive them based upon the 'beauty of the style'. The beauty isn't sufficient, and the harm is great.

  • David Lentz
    2019-06-04 06:07

    I suppose it's inevitable that readers will compare Naipaul's view of the bush to Joseph Conrad's. Naipaul portrays an ancient African civilization coming to grips with the intrusion of modern society thrust by economic boom into its midst. So the merchants and business traders take the steamer up the river to a bend where the New Africa is emerging. However, deep and primitive aggressions always seem to surface perhaps because they are so imbedded into man's warrior instincts. And the New Africa cannot seem to get beyond this to create a society in which peace and justice prevail. The irony is that such qualities exist elsewhere among more advanced societies, as well: society can't seem to transcend its own penchant for violence. Perhaps, that's because beneath the veneer of the human persona there lies a heart of darkness. Mankind's inability to cope with its brutality and baser instincts represent a challenge not only in the bush. It's a universal battle royal that Naipaul's insightful and brilliantly written novel epitomizes. This author is a worthy Nobel laureate for his work over a period of decades.

  • AC
    2019-06-24 10:26

    I listened to this on audible, while driving. I don't drive that much - and I've had to use much of my driving time for more pressing items. So this took me forever. But I listened to it so closely, that rather than losing the thread, it was like reading it twice. Naipaul's voice is a voice of such genuine intelligence and clarity -- such a human sympathy for characters and such a careful grasp of plotting -- that I was immediately awed by it. If you've never read this, then you have a treat in store. Nadine Gordimer says Mr. Biswas is even better, though. I know that Naipaul himself is a controversial figure -- but he is a wonderful writer. A natural.(This is going to be my current drive-time listen -- and so far, it has quite grabbed me. Clarity of prose and clarity of mind...)

  • Ami
    2019-05-25 03:27

    Naipaul, despite being so highly revered, is quite possibly more of an ass than Ernest Hemingway. Character flaws aside, this book was a bit slow and I didn't see the significance it promised.

  • Buck Ward
    2019-06-09 08:27

    A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul - This is a memoir of a shopkeeper of Indian descent in a town with no name on a bend in the river in a fictional post-colonial country in central Africa. The writing is dull; the story, what little there is of it, drags. I continually was thinking about abandoning this book, as not being worth the effort to read, but I persevered and finished it. Finally, at the very end of the book, the level of interest improves. Things become politically dangerous for the shopkeeper, so he leaves. V.S. Naipaul won a Nobel prize. Unbelievable. This book surely had nothing to do with that.

  • Lobstergirl
    2019-06-20 02:29

    This was really, really good. The story felt very familiar, as I had read Michela Wrong's book on the Mobutu regime recently (this novel takes place in an unnamed country which is clearly Zaire, in the years after the end of the colonial regime). Naipaul writes about identities here: national, ethnic, human, male. His characters struggle for status or supremacy, or even just a little dignity. His themes are Africa vs. Europe, African vs. Indian vs. white, educated vs. uneducated, developed and undeveloped, master and servant/slave. The writing is superb.

  • Kate Z
    2019-06-23 07:59

    I was going to read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. I really really was. But even though I have really liked most of the recent books I've read I feel like I've become this read-bot just reading all these indie bookstore picks by American authors. I just had to jump out of my rut and read something ELSE. I read Half A Life a few years ago and enjoyed it in that "I like anti-colonialism literature" kind of way and I've had A Bend In the River sitting on my shelf since then. It promises to be negative and misogynistic and anti-colonial ... and decidedly not an "Indie pick" and right now that's what I'm going for.I recently read the interview with V.S. Naipaul where much was made of his statement that no female writer can hold a candle to him and that he can tell if something is written by a female just by reading the first paragraph. I took the subsequent survey to see if I could identify female writers by one paragraph - presumably by their simpering, overly emotional tone or diction (I scored 4/10 and the quiz told me I needed to read more). That was a big factor in my motivation to read this book. I vividly remember a discussion about "character novels" where nothing really happens but a character is layed out, flayed, and dissected from tip to toe. I said I liked novels like that. A Bend in the River fits into this category - with one major qualification - and it's made me change my stance on those so-called character novels. To back up a bit, when I taught high school English I used to admonish students that whenever you see a river as a major piece of setting in a novel you should immediately think "life". River = life. It's one of the main metaphors. Add to that a certain amount of eye rolling. River = life. Okay, move on. This novel is titled "A Bend In The River". If you bear the above metaphor in mind, that tells you just about everything you need to understand about the novel, save one thing.Salim, the main character, an Indian who has moved from the coast of Africa to the interior (the "heart" of Africa) at "A Bend In The River". The tension of this novel on it's most basic level is between being a "new man of Africa" or a "man of new Africa". This is a post-colonial Africa struggling to (re)define itself.There's more to it in the details but that's the gist. I'm glad I read it but I'm also glad to be moving on. I would recommend this book to very few people. The writing didn't "wow" me and the rest, from the imagery, the tone, the characterization was just just what I expected.

  • Tony
    2019-06-14 10:06

    A BEND IN THE RIVER. (1979). V. S. Naipaul. ****.Naipaul (b. 1932) has attempted to encapsulate the full spectrum of a country’s evolution in this excellent effort. The transition from a bush-league country to the beginnings of a world power is fully explored much like his hero Conrad did in many of his works. Naipaul was born in Trinidad of Indian parents. He was educated in England, and soon opted to follow the life of a writer over those that might have beckoned to him from his studies. He has written a long litany of books – both fiction and nonfiction – and seems to have covered a broad spectrum of mans’ ambitions in both the social and political spheres. In this novel, he uses his narrator/protagonist, Mr. Salim as the observer/recorder of the transition of a native Africa into a modern nation. The story will seem familiar, but Naipaul approaches his subject by its effects on individuals within his small community. It is never specifically mentioned, but literary sleuths seem to have pin-pointed the action of his novel in Kimkasha on the Congo River. There is the ultimate destination of Mr. Salim, who buys out a small business there to start and maintain what he believes will be his life. What this does, however, is give him a chance to view the changes in the country that were happening around him as they guided the lives of his fellow adventurers. This work is extremely well done and provides a master plot for such changes in political leaderships throughout the world. Mr. Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.

  • Szplug
    2019-06-15 03:17

    This book contains one of the great opening lines: The World is what it is: men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it. It isn't long before the reader realizes that Africa is The World writ large, that this crepuscular leviathan of raw nature, beautiful and brutal, shrugs off civilization's efforts to restrain her like so many flea-bites. In an unnamed town—Kisangani—in an unnamed country—the Congo—under the boot of the Big Man—Mobutu—Salim arrives from the east coast, from British colonies where the Indian subclass functioned like Central African Jews. The town on the river bend is part of the bizarre, throbbing, exciting blend of modernity and tribal sorcery that the Big Man has concocted to sell the world, and his ethnic- and tribe-riven people, that his domain is now ready for prime time. Salim is part of the foreign contingent of the town—Europeans, Asians, Americans—valiantly endeavoring not to allow themselves to become nothing—scheming, trading, brawling, cheating, fucking, arguing, amassing money, spreading ideas—whilst the iron fist of the Big Man and his unifying ideology and the relentless pressure of the eternal jungle bear down and threaten to crush all life from these puny trespassers and their ridiculous, ephemeral ambitions and dreams. Probably my favorite book by Naipaul.

  • Raghu
    2019-06-05 03:10

    This is my most favorite novel from V.S.Naipaul. In fact, the novel's setting and progress is such that when one reads it many years it was written, which is what I did, one can realize how prophetic and perceptive it is about Africa and its future after colonialism ends there. Naipaul is analytical and thoroghly unsentimental and consequently, he is rather pessimistic about Africa's resurgence with the end of colonialism, contrary to what many liberals believed. The story is absorbing, tracing the fortunes of a young Indian (but born in Africa) shopkeeper in a country which Naipaul does not actually name. But it is common wisdom that he implies Zaire as the setting. The story follows the 'big man' who assumes power (as it always was in post-colonial Africa) and how things gradually deteriorate. Naipaul has many insights into Africa and life in general.The prose is superb as it is always with Naipaul. Anyone wanting to get to know Naipaul and his writings can start with this book.

  • Mikela
    2019-06-15 09:23

    Thought provoking...profound...sad...excellent read.

  • marie
    2019-06-19 05:59

    This is a novel of postcolonial Africa, like Things Fall Apart, but it is more complex, dense and more packed with ideas. I couldn't relate to the topic, found myself laboring to finish it, and I have realized that I will now choose the next 1001 books I read with more care as to theme. (African postcolonialism isn't one of my priorities. Such a theme seems dated, somehow, although doubtless with all that's happening in that continent when I read the news this novel still holds true in parts of Africa, even if it was written in 1979).The central character of the novel is Salim, a Muslim of Indian descent who goes to a town at the bend of a river of an unnamed African nation to trade. The town he migrates to is precisely described in great detail, and there isn't much to recommend it. The backdrop is depressing and in general the book is that, too. The country's future is dim, and so is Salim's. His life just lurches here and there, with no direction. The graft and petty cruelties endemic in an ancient culture that's coping with Western influences, the African dictator who imposes his ego on his countrymen, the swirl of ideas on what's best for Africans and their culture under these conditions, is presented subtly in very vivid descriptive prose. About the only thing that relieves this postcolonial tract (I use the term loosely; the novel is too well written to be classified as propaganda) is an affair Salim has with a married European, which ends abruptly and obliquely after a bout of inexplicable sadomasochism that apparently mirrors Naipaul's own sexual life. I don;t know why it was even necessary to spend that much time on this side story unless Naipaul couldn't help himself because of his own predilections.(I read a Time magazine review some years back of the authorized biography of Naipaul where it states that that his writing of women here changed as the novel was written after he'd taken up with a mistress and apparently beat her up a lot in the bedroom). The sexual affair and the number of pages it occupied jarred, somehow. It was like an inserted chapter. He should have shortened it or made it a more major part of the story, then its appearance would have made more sense. Doubtless it's well-written, but I didn't like it so much, hence my rating. I actually enjoyed the simpler Things Fall Apart of Chinua Achebe more.

  • Suzanne
    2019-06-12 01:59

    “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”A Bend in the River is the story of Salim, a native of India, who travels to Africa in search of a better life. He finds himself at a town at the bend of a large river in a newly independent African nation. The author does not name this nation, but only claims that it is centrally located, just east of Uganda. Salim purchases a shop for a greatly discounted rate – it’s owner having left for “safer” Uganda.This was not an “easy” book to read. While the writing was excellent, the storyline was kind of dull, and the characters lifeless. The only reason I didn’t give up on the book, was it’s length. I decided it was short enough to carry on through to the end. That said, I appreciated having Salim as the narrator. In the beginning he talked about how Africans (and other third world peoples under foreign rule) felt like slaves, and only wanted to be treated like men. As the story progressed, we see how power corrupts those who wield it, and the country suffers. Salim is eventually forced to leave Africa, taking up residence in London, but he never feels comfortable there. He is not familiar with it’s customs and feels he is taken advantage of. It is not long before he heads back to Africa, only to find that the new government has nationalized all the businesses, his included. It reminded me a bit of Atlas Shrugged, where the current government and it’s followers are nothing but looters, who don’t know the first thing about business. They take and take, and when they have ruined the businesses they stole, they seek to take from anyone to even appears to have some wealth. Which is unfortunate for Salim, who must this time escape from Africa.There are some books, while not particularly enjoyable to read, are none the less important because of the issues they present. A Bend in the River is one of those books. It definitely left me thinking long after I’d finished reading it. Perhaps that is why the author won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

  • Czarny Pies
    2019-05-30 08:00

    In 1972, Idi Amin began expelling Asians from Uganda. I took little notice until I arrived at the MBA school of York University seven years later where I met a dozen of the expelled Asians.They all told stories similar to the one of Salim the protagonist of this remarkable novel by V.S. Naipaul. The talked about the political complexity of life in post-colonial Africa and the efforts of their families to maintain their businesses in Africa in an increasingly hostile environment. Ultimately they all failed which is why they were studying with me in Canadian business school. They were certainly more sad than bitter and remembered the Africans who had tried so hard to support them during their time in Africa.This novel is a masterpiece of authenticity and a great lament for a colonial society that arguably died a death it did not truly deserve.V.S.Naipaul in my view was a very deserving Nobel Laureate.

  • Joe Dyer
    2019-06-03 07:12

    Life and times of a shopkeeper in a rural outpost in tumultuous post-colonial central Africa. Naipul provides insights and wisdom about the complexity of race, ethnicity, and nationality in Africa and spins a damn good yarn at the same time.

  • Shilpi Gowda
    2019-05-31 10:22

    I read this classic book while on my first trip to India by myself as an adult, and it made a deep impression.

  • Yonis Gure
    2019-05-31 08:13

    A Bend in the River is a bit of a mixed-bag for me. On the one hand, Naipaul's ideological point in the novel, that the tares Nationalism brings to a post-colonial nation on the cusp of modernity can be very detrimental not just politically but - seldom acknowledged -psychically on it's inhabitants is very shrewdly made, in extremely vivid detail and stunning prose. He also, through the narrator, Salim, gives the reader a glimpse at the morally degrading qualities of mimetic rivalry; as he constantly compares himself with the lives of other people in the novel (Indar, Yvette, Naz) he feels are much further along the path of self-actualization than himself, he can't help but feel "backward" and "inept". Naipaul is as gifted a storyteller as I've ever come across. Reading this novel in 2018, I found the author and this book extraordinarily contemporary, despite having been written over 40 years ago. BUT. I can't help shake the gnawing suspicion that Naipaul's attitudes towards Africa and - by consequence - Africans, is the product of extreme prejudice. Demuring over and over again their intellectual stuntedness, political retardation, religious fanaticism, ostensible violent proclivities. Not to speak of his explicit nostalgia for imperial rule; a time, as he saw it, of law and order - when he (Salim) and his family enjoyed great wealth and privilege at the expense of the natives. In that spirit, the unironic praise leveled at him by the Nobel committee as the closest thing this side of the 20th and 21st century to Conrad, is indeed apt. With all that said, however, I definitely think this is a book worth reading and re-reading and - given our current climate - having several more looks at.

  • Jo
    2019-06-22 08:09

    This is a wonderful book, set in an unnamed country in Africa. Salim moved to this country after a troubled period following independence to build his luck, setting up a shop in what used to be a colonial town. In a forgotten town at the edge of a river, people and events come and go as waves. A foreigner finds himself establishing relationships with very different people than he normally would, for lack of options. Around him, the country and its people try to find a future; a rebellion comes and goes; prosperity ensues; authoritarianism and corruption develop; flashy new buildings are built and then abandoned. As Mahesh says, "you do only what you can do. You carry on.""...the aeroplane is a wonderful thing. You are still in one place when you arrive at the other. The aeroplane is faster than the heart. You arrive quickly and you leave quickly. You don't grieve too much. And there is something else about the aeroplane. You can go back many times to the same place. And something strange happens if you go back often enough. You stop grieving for the past. You see that the past is something in your mind alone, that it doesn't exist in real life. You trample in the past, you crush it. In the beginning it is like trampling on a garden. In the end you are just walking on ground.""With each job description I read I felt a tightening of what I must call my soul. I found myself growing false to myself, acting to myself, convincing myself of my rightness for whatever was being described. And this is where I suppose life ends for most people, who stiffen in the attitudes they adopt to make themselves suitable for the jobs and lives that other people have laid out for them.""This piece of earth - how many changes had come to it! Forest at a bend in the river, a meeting place, an Arab settlement, a European outpost, a European suburb, a ruin like the ruin of a dead civilization, the glittering Domain of new Africa, and now this."