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A Bend in the River Paperback – 1 Apr 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (1 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033052299X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330522991
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Naipaul has fashioned a work of intense imaginative force. It is a haunting creation, rich with incident and human bafflement, played out in an immense detail of landscape rendered with a poignant brilliance.’ Elizabeth Hardwick

‘Always a master of fictional landscape, Naipaul here shows, in his variety of human examples and in his search for underlying social causes, a Tolstoyan spirit’ John Updike

Book Description

The great novel of Africa from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

With a new preface by the author

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Mar. 2005
Format: Paperback
What a great novel this is! It tells the story of Salim who left his family home on the coast to start a business in central Africa at a town on the bend in the great Congo River. The inhabitants of the town, natives and expatriates, are described with empathy and an eye for detail.
Naipaul also narrates the history of the town as it is connected to the ups and downs of history, with great detail. His writing style is compelling and elegant, while the plot and characterization are superb. In many ways, the book illumines the post-independence history of those Africans that are of Indian descent.
Most of them were traders and many of them went into a second diaspora after the tumult and political upheavals in Africa of the 1960s and 70s. I was particularly impressed by Salim's first experience of the voice of Joan Baez, when a record of hers was played at a party in the academic suburb next to the old town.
Naipaul's extraordinary talent comes through in every flowing sentence and in every well-chosen word. I'm not a great lover of fiction, but this book has enriched my mind. I highly recommend it to readers of serious fiction and to historians alike. I also recommend the travel book North Of South by Shiva Naipaul, the record of a journey through Africa that ties in very well with A Bend In The River.
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I must say that I regret that it took me a long time to discover the significance of A Bend in the River. Its significance was brought to my attention by the recent publicity surrounding a biography of V S Naipaul. As I began reading the novel, it immediately stuck a cord with me. Naipaul's opening sentence must be one of the most stunning first sentences of the literary novel. Its assertion creates a sense that one has embarked upon the reading of a great philosophical treatise. I was immediately engaged.

Our first person narrator and main character, Salim, takes over a shop somewhere in central Africa in a state of post rebellion. He is restless and trying to escape his former life on the east coast of Africa. Salim narrates his struggle for personal change against a backdrop of an array of characters who undertake their own personal journey of survival and change in the context of an emerging state that vacillates between the promise of success, and failure.

A Bend in the River is a timeless novel. Some twenty nine years after first publication if you take this passage as an example: "I had heard dreadful stories of that time, of casual killings over many months by soldiers and rebels and mercenaries, of people trusted up in disgusting ways and being made to sing certain songs while they were beaten to death in the streets", you will soon realise that it is very relevant to certain parts of Africa today. One must pay tribute to Naipaul's profound percepton and unfortunate prophecy.

This is a well observed and down right honest story. For this reason I fear that some readers may well shirk from its truths.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the most difficult books I have ever read, mainly due to the author's subdued writing style and my personal inability (as a white Briton) to relate to much of the content.
The plot is minimal, but the theme of a country (Africa), lost because of its inability to create any kind of permanent memorial to itself, permeates the novel.
This theme is particularly poignant during the chapters when the narrator lives for a time in London. The concrete and the bricks, the enduring 'sameness', the sense of century on century, is utterly alien to all that Africa appears to mean.
I found this a haunting book, filled with emotions which returned again and again after the book was read and put away.
It was very challenging, but highly rewarding.
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Format: Paperback
I have had this book sitting on my bookshelf for many years and I finally got around to reading it. I knew of its iconic status and reputation. I also knew a little bit about the author - a man who seemed detached and a little vain - as if being labelled a great author had some special spiritual significance for him.

The pace and rhythm of the book was like a gentle wave lapping onto some deserted island shore - unrelenting and after a while a little monotonous. The prose was clear and uncluttered. It was certainly easy to read. But for most of the time I was looking forward to finishing the book and nothing particularly captivated my attention and spurred me on with any relish.

The trouble with books that come with a reputation of greatness is that you feel compelled to believe the hype and to recognise the greatness in every sentence and paragraph. For me - a good reading experience does not exist in lingering over the choice of certain words to catch the incredible insight of that choice. That is purist nonsense. Overall I found the reading experience a little tedious and low-key. Undoubtedly it gives an account of the experience of migrants to Africa, of the lack of cohesion in society, and the ever present dangers of bush and village life - and this was insightful - but Salim (our protagonist) was a little dull and detached - which is how I imagine the author to be.

We have philosophical musings about the nature of society and civilisations (especially from Indar - a friend of Salim) - and the concept of individualism is explored in some depth. All very worthy, and I am sure, important.

But - these musings can be better accessed in polemical debates or articles from newspapers.
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