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A Bend in the River
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A Bend in the River

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  14,606 ratings  ·  860 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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3.77  · 
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 ·  14,606 ratings  ·  860 reviews

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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
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
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
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 li
Dave Russell
Mar 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worst, novels
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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.
Jacob Appel
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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: fiction, own
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
Kate Z
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't normally select books from the political genre, but Naipaul is such a good writer I'll eventually read all his works. I'm still thinking through this one, and I'm simply going to list several quotes that hit me as being worth considering in today's world.
*"...a government that breaks its own laws can also easily break you. Your business associate today can be your jailer or worse tomorrow." Currently, here in America, members of the military are being kicked out/deported, etc. Now, any s
May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Dhruv Kandhari
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'A Bend in The River' is a 1979 historical novel written by Nobel Laureate Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, set in an unnamed town in Africa at a bend in the great river, after independence. The novel is narrated by Salim, an ethnically Indian Muslim man, a shopkeeper who believes 'the world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.', and he arrives in this part of Africa, a land of the exploited and a broken piece of nowhere, where political ...more
Mar 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David M
The first Naipaul I've ever read. Lives up to his reputation, both for racism and for incandescent prose.

The first sentence is justly famous; one of the greatest opening lines to any novel I can think of. The very last sentence is likewise frightening and strange.

Naipaul - at least in this book - is not just some mediocre bigoted hugely overrated crank like Saul Bellow; his misanthropy seems born of a deep traumatic contact with the world.
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
“The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” 166 likes
“Non-fiction can distort; facts can be realigned. But fiction never lies.” 86 likes
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