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A Bend in the River

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  13,449 Ratings  ·  750 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 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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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
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)
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
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 lit
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
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
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
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.
Nelson Zagalo
É verdade que o tema é a descolonização, o antes e o pós, impactos e efeitos, mas é mais do que isso, é um questionamento sobre aquilo que nos motiva a fixar objetivos, a acreditar em destinos, a procurar mais e melhor. É visto a partir da perspectiva africana, ainda que por um indiano que ali nasceu, servindo o romance para dar conta do seu "coming-of-age".

A escrita de Naipaul é boa mas não surpreende, pelo menos na tradução, já o tom imposto ao discurso esse sim é bastante particular, muito co
Teresa Proença
Pouco romance. Pouca emoção.
Muita política. Muita vida africana.
Grande aborrecimento. Desisti a meio.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
It took a while for the cogs of this novel to start turning. The ending retrospectively shines a favorable light on the whole, but while reading about the trivialities of an immigrant shopkeeper in a third-world country might seem exotic to some, and post-colonial Africa is always of didactic interest, I was tempted many times to just drop the book completely and write-off Naipaul as a hyped-up, “exotic” by-product of neo-colonial Orientalism. I doubt I’ll invest in another Naipaul novel, althou ...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
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A BEND IN THE RIVER. (1979). V. S. Naipaul. ****.
Naipaul (b. 1932) has attempted to encapsulate the full spectrum of a country’s evolution in this excellent effort. The transition from a bush-league country to the beginnings of a world power is fully explored much like his hero Conrad did in many of his works. Naipaul was born in Trinidad of Indian parents. He was educated in England, and soon opted to follow the life of a writer over those that might have beckoned to him from his studies. He ha
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
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
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.
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking...profound...sad...excellent read.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5 Sterne – „An der Biegung des großen Flusses“ (Kongo) liegt Kisangani, eine Stadt im Nordosten der heutigen Demokratischen Republik Kongo. In Naipauls Roman werden weder die Stadt noch der Staat beim Namen genannt, aber sie stehen exemplarisch für das postkoloniale Zentralafrika, dem Schauplatz der Handlung.
Salim stammt aus einer Familie indisch-muslimischer Händler, die seit Generationen an der Ostküste Afrikas leben, sich selbst jedoch nicht als Afrikaner verstehen. „Wir […] waren eigentli
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
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
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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 about V.S. Naipaul
“The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” 147 likes
“Non-fiction can distort; facts can be realigned. But fiction never lies.” 78 likes
More quotes…