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A Bend in the River

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  15,859 ratings  ·  964 reviews
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.
Paperback, 326 pages
Published May 10th 2002 by Picador USA (first published September 20th 1979)
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Obi He said something about learning news of an event at a later time, so I just assumed he lived

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Jim Fonseca
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is as much a story of what it was like living in a newly independent country in Africa in the 1960’s - 1970’s as it is a novel. The book has memorable opening lines: “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”

The main character is a Hindu from a well-off family, originally from India by way of eastern Africa but now settled on the west coast. He buys a store from his uncle and moves a week’s journey upriver and inland, to
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)
May 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews, favorites
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
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, africa
"The world is what it is. Men who are nothing, who allow themselves to be nothing, have no place in it." - V S Naipaul

Naipaul's narrator Salim is a young Muslim Indian who grew up on the east coast of Africa. Looking to make his way in the world he moves to central Africa along the Congo. He buys a shop and flat and begins a business. The town is a former European colony ravaged by a war of independence. The buildings and parks are in ruins, now occupied by refugees from the surrounding villages
Jan 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  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
Beautiful, multi-layered story, set in an unnamed African country, but very simular to the Congo or Zaïre in the time of dictator Mobutu. The storyteller, Salim, is of Indian origin, and takes over a shop in a town, deep inland, (by a bend in the river), just after independence. He observes the waves of unrest and uncertainty and the rise of a Great Man in the capital.

You can read this novel as a lucid political story (the making of a gruesome dictator, and how different people cope with it), a
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
Dave Russell
Mar 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, worst
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
Genia Lukin
Oct 21, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
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
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ex ...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. ...more
Brad Lyerla
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Onaiza Khan
This is a very powerful novel. With his simple, poetic and effortless style, Naipul builds a world with very strong foundations. The characters are extremely well developed and speak personally to the reader. The political situation and the personal dilemmas flow beautifully as part of a plain narrative of a simple man. It can also be considered deeply philosophical. Sometimes the book echoes the concept of the absurdity of Camus and other times of Schopenhauer's will to live. ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: naipaul
Salim is a Hindu from an Indian trading family on the East coast of Africa. He decides to move to a country and town most like Kinshasa in the Congo during the violent 1960s and 1970s. The opening lines in the book set the scene of this terrifying story: “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”

Naipaul paints a town on the brink of chaos and violence with Salim’s shop the centre of the events happening and reflecting what happene
lucky little cat
This was my college's required summer reading for incoming freshmen back in 1981. It gave me altogether wrong expectations of how culturally aware my tiny liberal arts school was. And of course no one else had read the book, not even the group counselor, so it was a classic summer-reading experience! ...more
Pradnya K.
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'd have loved to writ a detailed review of this book. Since the day I bought it in a pre-owned book shop till today, it was always on my mind. It was my first Naipaul book. Many say that it's not his best one, and I see why he keeps his readers hooked.
It's a story of a Salim, an Indian, who travels to Africa to try his luck and make some money and identity for himself. The story progresses with history of Africa, how the unnamed country undergoes the changes under rulers in post-colonial years
Jacob Appel
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Non-fiction can distort; facts can be realigned, but fiction never lies."

Set in an unnamed country which has recently won independence from colonial rule, this novel centres around Salim, a Indian Muslim whose family had settled in an Africa coastal town where they were traders. Salim is impressionable and believes that his family is mired in traditionalism. In an attempt to escape his family's expectations he buys a family friend's business and moves many miles to the interior to a town on 'A
Dec 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Read this soon after it appeared, my copy from Providence, RI in 1985. The title refers to the "centre of the continent"(20), where Naipaul's Indian I-narrator moves from the coast his ancestors settled. Naipaul lived in Africa when writer in residence at a Uganda university, and he travelled widely. Bend in the River is acutely in touch with African realities, while Bellow's Henderson is not: but, Bellow's is the better work.

I delayed reviewing Bend, which I find the only VSN I've read ( near
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Naipaul made a point of being darkly pessimistic about the future of the post-colonial world, at a time when many people were intoxicated by what the future might look like. Decades later the jury is still out. But this disturbing novel seemed prescient about many things, especially the fanaticism and doomed grandiosity of the societies that were emerging from the colonial yoke. I would say less that Naipaul was a racist than that he was an extreme conservative. He held the typically conservativ ...more
David Lentz
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 31, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 31, 2008 rated it liked it
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. ...more
A.K. Kulshreshth
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
I read this book with clarity of purpose -- it was a book club choice, and I would not let what I knew of Naipaul as a person come in the way of enjoying a novel that is on a "Top 100" novels list certified by The Guardian .

Unfortunately, my view of this work is closer to this reviewer's.

There are books that are known for their depiction of dark characters - Simenon's Dirty Snow, transplanted to Japan in a 1965 film (that can be seen on Youtube!), comes to mind. The writer created an anti-hero
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
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rashard Mendenhall
Shelves: own, fiction
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 u ...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 considered Naipaul’s masterpiece and I would agree. It is a slow burn and the drama is muted. I was reminded most of a Graham Greene or Gabriel Marcia Marquez style of writing while reading this one.

In this story, a modern day version of Heart of Darkness, Salim is the protagonist. He is of Indian Muslim origin from East Africa and sees few economic prospects at home
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-fictions
The story of this young Indian trader living in Zaire at the time of Mobutu is well told and very close to reality; I have first hand knowledge of the situation as well as timing, having lived in West Africa for almost 40 years, in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria shortly after Independence of these countries. The end of law and order, and invariably the beginning of tribal wars and military coups.
This book was a great pleasure to read, bringing back many memories to my mind.
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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

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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.” 176 likes
“Non-fiction can distort; facts can be realigned. But fiction never lies.” 93 likes
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