A Bend in the River
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A Bend in the River

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  7,727 ratings  ·  458 reviews
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 betwe...more
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Published September 1st 2004 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1979)
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I always find it difficult to talk about the books I really like. Especially so if it is a Naipaul book. I read The Bend again 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...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
4/30 here we go....

I hear it sucks.


A 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 of Heart of Darkness (and fellow Pole!)

Or perhaps it's just me recognizing subpar lit...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 17, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006 to 2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
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 j...more
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...more
Dave Russell
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...more
Jan 08, 2013 Rowena rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rowena by: Laura from work
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 con...more
Riku Sayuj
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.
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.
David Lentz
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 Afric...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Kate Z
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 nega...more
Joe Dyer
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.
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...more
“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 f...more
By personal upbringing and sheer talent, Naipaul can talk about far-away lands and people of mixed origins and nomadic lifestyles like nobody else. Here, with his typically honest and sometime ruthless eye, Naipaul takes the reader to the heart of Africa, to a town that sits by a bend in an unnamed river (which is thought to be the Congo). He zooms on the life of Salim, the narrator, an Africa-born Indian Muslim who moves from the east coast to the interior in the hope of finding fortune and, in...more
Brad Lyerla
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...more
I read an article somewhere about a man in Africa who made his living as a river guide. He was bemoaning the loss of the colonial days where as brutal as the ruling regimes could be, at least there were factories, schools, roads and hospitals set up by the oppressing foreigners. As his country since has descended into anarchy, war and poverty, it seems that the loss of freedoms was a small price to pay.

When I read A Bend in the River, I got the feeling that there was some of the same kind of fe...more
Another Naipaul down. Not as good as In a Free State which I read earlier this year and which I thought was excellent, but nevertheless a hard-hitting, thought-provoking exploration of the impact of the colonial legacy.

The focus is Salim and the entire book is narrated by him. Starting on the east coast of an (unnamed) East African nation, he migrates inland to a town on the eponymous bend in the river to take over a small shop. From the vantage point of this interior settlement, Salim describes...more
I absolutely adored reading this novel. The first I've read of Naipaul and it won't be the last. I felt so close to the town, I could almost taste the air. Having visited Malaysia before reading this novel gave me a real sense of having experienced the environment that Naipaul describes - the concrete shops, the tropical environment, red earth, hard rain and exotic trees. This novel also left me with a sort of understanding of the various peoples of Africa. I also discovered something about Musl...more
Nov 22, 2007 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Friends of Africa
This is fiction, but as often happens, fiction turns out to be truer and more real than life. The fictional country is obviously the Belgian Congo and the "Big Man" is obviously Mobutu. A powerful and perceptive story about post-colonials caught in traps of their own making, but also victims of circumstances beyond their control. My rating is 5 stars, although the stars seem to have flown.
Shilpi Gowda
I read this classic book while on my first trip to India by myself as an adult, and it made a deep impression.
Pavan Palety
It's like Naipaul had read the jumble of my mind and expressed my thoughts far better than I would have. "When you live out the optimism that comes with youth, the irresponsibility, the gaiety that others will decide for you, then you realize new found burdens, solitude, melancholy, blues. He says people turn to religion to regain the upliftment and hope. But how can we ever go back to religion after rejecting its ways for so long. And we are in our own."

I also resonated well with the emotions t...more
Buck Ward
A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul - This is a memoir of a shopkeeper of Indian descent in an 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...more
I felt like the first half of the book was so big, and the second half was so small. The first half lays out the situation in Central Africa after independence. The movers and shakers and survivals and changes and all of that. Plus, the disorientation of the narrator as an outsider. And it's about political power and corruption and modernity (LOVE the BigBurger franchise with its bright plastic seats as the symbol of crass modernity that is nonetheless worhsipped). But then--spoiler alert--Salim...more
This is the story of a man of Indian descent but African birth who travels in from the west coast to an unnamed country in the interior. He is outwardly seeking his fortune, but interiorly he is actually trying to find independent stability in a restless time for African nations.

This book was so tautly written and subtly shaped, I'm kind of in awe. The world moves and shifts and the characters grow realistically and unexpectedly without you noticing - which is exactly how it is for the protagon...more
This novel from the hand of 2001 Nobel Prize laureate V.S. Naipaul is more about time and place than action. The time is the 1960s, the place an unspecified country that is probably the Congo (or "Zaire" as it was called then). And one of the major "off screen" characters, "The Big Man," is likely modeled on the totalitarian ruler Joseph Mobutu. The novel is narrated by an Indian, whose family has been settled in Eastern African for generations, and who moves to a city in central Africa on "a be...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in November 1999.

Many parts of Africa in the seventies must have been bewildering, terrifying places to live. The driving forces for instability were very strong, based partly on the conflicting feelings of the recently independent nations towards the former colonial powers: hatred of what they had stood for, jealousy of their wealth, and a desperate desire to be as "advanced". The need for the West to provide the status symbols the new nations desperately wa...more
Becca The
I don't have a lot to say about this book since I did not enjoy it very much. It was alright, but getting to the end felt kind of like a chore. It reminded me of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter because it seemed a lot like something you would read in school. I don't know why they always think these kinds of books are so great. I suppose it did a good job of depicting a certain place and time (i.e. Africa in the 1970's), but all the characters seemed depressed, sad, and kind of nihilistically hopele...more
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi...more
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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.” 67 likes
“After all, we make ourselves according to the ideas we have of our possibilities.” 24 likes
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