Daniel's Reviews > A Bend in the River

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
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's review
May 07, 2008

liked it

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 feeling behind the continual ebb and flow of civilization in the country as laid out by Naipaul. What one group accomplishes, the next finds destroyed and forced to rebuild. If you are able to sell your work for more than you paid, then you have been successful. If you are able to sell your country the same way, are you successful? It is an interesting paradox as displayed over and over again in the history of many third world nations.

I felt like Naipaul had a lot of problems changing voice in this novel which is the only reason why I couldn't give it four stars. Sometimes the voice of one character bleeds over into the next, there are some problems in the differentiation which he clearly overcomes in his other works like A House for Mr. Biswas. But here, there is some struggle, a sameness that he cannot defeat or perhaps chose not to.

The book is still excellent and the cautionary tale is completely relevant. Creation for the sake of destruction seems to be the lot of some parts of the world. Buy your bend in the river low, sell it high. That is the only way to survive in such places at such times.
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