- Paperback: 278 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (May 12, 1980)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394743148
- ISBN-13: 978-0394743141
- Package Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.3 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,500,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Bend in the River Paperback – May 12, 1980
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'Brilliant and terrifying' Observer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
First published in 1979, A Bend in the River is a profound and richly observed novel of the politics and society of postcolonial Africa. Salim, a young Indian man, moves to a town on a bend in the river of a recently independent nation. As Salim strives to establish his business, he comes to be closely involved with the fluid and dangerous politics of the newly created state, the remnants of the old regime clashing inevitably with the new. "Naipaul's novels are about the struggle for existence in a world still colonial despite the breakup of the old Western empires," wrote Alfred Kazin.
A Bend in the River is demonstration of V. S. Naipaul's status as one of the world's best novelists. The New York Times Book Review noted: "For sheer abundance of talent there can hardly be a writer alive who surpasses V. S. Naipaul." Elizabeth Hardwick, who has provided a
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see the inside of the jacketnew Introduction for this Modern Library edition, has said, "The sweep of Naipaul's imagination, the brilliant fictional frame that expresses it, are in my view without equal today." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
but now I submit full devotion to him as a keen observer of the condition of humans at the meeting of cultures at, for instance, this bend in the River in the heart of Africa.
Two sentences excerpts from the book convey what I cannot say better myself - at the beginning :
'The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it'
and and another towards the end :
'If there was a plan, these events had meaning. If there was law, the events had meaning. But there was no plan; there was no law; this was only make-believe, play, a waste of men's time in the world'
Salim’s family could not afford to send him to university in England. He had tired of the crowded conditions in the home with the blended families, pessimistic about the future, and the volatility that was inevitable with his country’s independence from Britain.
A wealthy family friend, Nazruddin, sold Salim a store located deep into the interior of Africa for a minimal amount. In addition, Salim promised to marry Nazruddin’s eldest daughter, Kareisha.
Tired of his family’s old-fashioned arrangement of marriages, Salim bolted before the banns of matrimony were settled, before meeting Kareisha, but knew Nazruddin believed him loyal and that he’d keep his vow.
After a long and tiring journey to the interior country, near a bend in the river, Salim discovered his store had lay derelict for some time. The country had gained their independence, but the entire town was in disarray. Villagers had suffered so much from the intruders—Europeans, Arabs, and other Africans. The people had destroyed everything reminding them of the abuse and their enslavement during colonial time.
Salim became familiar with the ex-patriates and other Southern Asians living in the town, and Ali, a servant in Salim’s family arrived. Ali would later be known as Metty (Métis) with the locals. He learned the patois and became Salim’s Custom’s Clerk. Salim treated him like a family member.
Salim quickly became recognized and respected by other traders with goods to be bought and sold. One of the traders, was Zabeth, an astute business woman and known conjurer, who Salim admired. Zabeth arrived once a month with her entourage to make purchases for her fishing village. A year or more later, after Zabeth developed rapport and trust with Salim, she asked that he watch over her fifteen year-old son, Ferdinand, who would attend a nearby lycée.
Salim’s insecurities flared whenever someone had success and prestige: He became preoccupied with Ferdinand, Zabeth’s teenage son, who exuded strength of character; a young man, calm, confident and in control of his feelings, whom Salim discerned would someday become a man of great power and change in Africa. This made Salim feel inferior, worthless, and eventually resentful. Yet one day, Ferdinand would become his savior; and Indar, a former wealthy neighborhood friend of Salim’s, from East Africa, who studied in the UK. Indar made Salim feel ‘backwards.’ Indar had seen the world, Salim had not. Yet Indar had his own unhappiness with life in the UK and in the States. When he reunited with Salim in the interior, he had come to town as a guest of the ‘Big Man.’
Through Indar, Salim met Yvette, a Belgian, married to an Englishman, the ‘Big Man’s’ historian and speech writer. Indar had had an affair with Yvette before leaving Africa. Salim became her lover afterwards. Salim had used prostitutes until he met Yvette; a new stimulation. He was enthralled with her. Then an obsession sprouted with her that led to him physically abusing her when he found she and her husband were leaving the country.
Later, Salim visited Nazruddin in England, after an absence of about eight years. Nazruddin had bought several homes in England. Again, the feelings of inadequacy returned to Salim; he thought his life would always be unsatisfactory. Yet, he met Nazruddin’s eldest daughter, Kareisha, now a pharmacist, whom appeared amiable.
Before Salim flew home to Africa, at a stopover in Belgium. He slept with a prostitute.
On his return, he discovered changes had been made, which would eventually include betrayal by Metty. The ‘Big Man’ had instituted a takeover; all businesses would now be owned by its African citizens. In addition, he distrusted the educated.
According to Metty and circulating rumors, Africa would revert back to its old ways before colonialism. Blood would be shed.
Salim knew there was no going back to his home on the East Coast of Africa. Changes had been made there too.
In symbolism, the bend in the river, I think, is used as a sign of changes, boundaries and contrast between civilization (the townspeople) and those outside (the villagers.). In addition, water is constantly moving and flowing, and the world mutable.
I gave this book four stars. I thought the chapter on Indar was too long and of no interest to me. Yet Salim is interesting because it involves the many changes and dispositions in his life: his courage to leave home in his early twenties and initiate a successful business, and the negative changes such as his disregard for intimacy and warmth, and instead seeking prostitutes, his insecurities, his one obsession, which was not love, but lust, and his not seeming to have a plan to change his life and become more successful. Salim was like the water hyacinths, beautiful, but fixed, and difficult to move or change.
Like the writer, Salim the narrator is the perpetual outsider. His ethnicity, his religion, his family history make him an outsider in the town, in the nation, and in Africa. And Salim looks upon what gradually unfolds around him with a bewildering sense of deja vu, for though Salim do not know what is actually going on, he understands how power corrupts, how freedom bewilders and how silence can be lethal. He tries his best to help everyone, only to realize that there is nothing he can do.
For readers who have experience in a developing country, the various episodes in the novel will touch you to the quick.