Riley's Reviews > A Bend in the River

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
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Jul 04, 2012

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Read in July, 2012

Disillusionment is the underlying theme of this book, and it offers many layers of it. I'm not sure if I agree with V.S. Naipaul's seeming nostalgia for colonial Africa, but I enjoyed the novel nonetheless.

Here's one passage, which gives a sense of the hopes dashed that dominates the work. It is told by Yvette, who is having an affair with the narrator and whose husband was close to the nameless African leader who is a key figure in the novel's progression:

"'The President invited us to dinner regularly and for the first two or three times I sat on his right. He said he could do no less for the wife of his old professeur -- but that wasn't true: Raymond never taught him: that was just for the European press. He was extraordinarily charming, the President, and there was never any hint of nonsense, I should add. The first time we talked about the table, literally. It was made of local wood and carved with African motifs at the edge. Rather horribly, if you want to know. He said the Africans had prodigious skills as wood-carvers and that the country could supply the whole world with high-quality furniture. It was like the recent talk about an industrial park along the river -- it was just an idea to talk about. But I was new then and I wanted to believe everything I was told.

"'Always there were the cameras. Always the cameras, even in those early days. He was always posing for them; you knew that, and it made conversation difficult. He never relaxed. He always led the conversation. He never let you start a new topic; he simply turned away. The etiquette of royalty -- he had learned it from somebody, and I learned it from him, the hard way. He had this very abrupt way of turning away from you; it was like a piece of personal style. And he seemed to enjoy the stylishness of turning and walking straight out of a room at the appointed time.'"


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