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A Bend in the River (1979)

by V. S. Naipaul

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,190574,178 (3.69)188
Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:In the "brilliant novel" (The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man??an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditio… (more)
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» See also 188 mentions

English (53)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
This story of an Indian man born and raised in Africa post-WW2 varied from insightful to tragic to boring. Salim moves from his family home on the east coast to an unidentified city in central Africa which had been a Belgian colony (I suspect it is Kisangani, Zaire now DR Congo). There are distinct echos of Conrad's Heart of Darkness particularly in the first section.

I find the setting fascinating but the story is told in what I am beginning to think of as the "Booker Prize" style -- lots of description of Salim's thoughts and opinions and the action felt as if it was occurring at a distance even when it is happening to Salim himself. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
Protagonist and narrator, Salim, lives in central Africa in the 1960s-1970s. He has moved from the coast to run a shop in the interior located at the bend of a great river. It is a postcolonial novel, set in central Africa. The circumstances described in the novel are comparable to what happened in the Congo after the Belgians departed. The country is run by a corrupt President, known as the “Big Man,” who gradually increases his power base to that of a dictator.

This novel is supremely well-written. It is character-driven, so we meet the people in Salim’s circle, and we are privy to his thoughts. The theme is centered on what happens when civilization breaks down. The old rule of colonialism exploited the people. But the new rule is that of a Cult of Personality. It is based on corruption, fear, and oppression.

In this case, individuals who were previously striving for financial gain or recognition for their abilities, living in relative security, end up fearing for their lives. This fear negatively impacts their relationships and ways of interacting with others. We see Salim turn from a typical shopkeeper trying to make a decent living to a man of questionable ethics who is only saved from destruction by his status as an outsider.

The book portrays the basic need of all people to find a safe haven to fulfill their dreams and aspirations, and how social upheavals can wreak havoc on this basic need. This type of situation has occurred in history many times, and not solely in Africa. I cannot say it is a particularly “enjoyable” read but I appreciate its relevance.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
A book about displaced people; people living in foreign lands, villagers living in urban areas with no retrievable past or conceivable future and all the futility and frenzy that creates. ( )
  snash | Apr 18, 2021 |
This book is about a man who moves from the east coast of Africa to the interior to open a store at a bend in the river during unsettled times.
It got me wondering what it takes to leave everything behind and start again somewhere remote. What kind of faith or courage is needed or is it just being open to where life leads you?
(This is not necessarily what the book is about- but I really could not stop thinking about this as a concept) ( )
  curious_squid | Apr 5, 2021 |
I stopped reading this book as it became more and more hopeless and depressing. My life is too short to burden myself with the travails of post-colonial African development. Sorry. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
V. S. Naipaulprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hardwick, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marnham, PatrickIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.
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Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:In the "brilliant novel" (The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man??an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditio

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