Sunil's Reviews > A Bend in the River

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
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May 27, 14

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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 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.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Bishan (new) - added it

Bishan Samaddar I am reading the book right now. Like many of Naipaul's novels, this one is indeed slow. But immensely insightful. Thanks for the review.


Sunil It's a very unique book. Take your time, and I think one has to always revisit to appreciate it's true worth.


Krishna It radiates energy. A wonderful book. Great review.


Sunil Indeed. Thanks


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm gearing up to read this book and your review makes me excited--thanks!


Sunil You are welcome, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


message 7: by Christopher (new)

Christopher You had me at "ensorcelling"! I sincerely thank you for enriching my vocabulary :)


message 8: by Sunil (last edited Jul 10, 2014 03:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sunil Thanks Christopher, pleasure!


Riku Sayuj vey nice review. always a learning experience to read an enthusiastic review of a book that one did not really take to. Thanks


message 10: by Jigar (new) - added it

Jigar Brahmbhatt Very perceptive. Your love for Naipaul is infectious.


Sunil Thanks Riku and Jigar


message 12: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John An astonishingly good and important novel, and a most insightful review of it. Kudos.


Sunil Thank you John.


message 14: by Dhruv (new)

Dhruv Goel Agree with you totally, I too am a great fan of Naipaul, started with 'In a Free State', I am actually enjoying his work.


message 15: by Dhruv (new)

Dhruv Goel Agree with you totally, I too am a great fan of Naipaul, started with 'In a Free State', I am actually enjoying his work.


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