Widely hailed as Nobel Prize-winning author V. S. Naipaul’s greatest work, A Bend in the River takes us deeply into the life of a young Indian man who moves to an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation.
Salim is doubly an outsider in his new home—an unnamed country that resembles the Congo—by virtue of his origins in a community of Indian merchants on the coast of East Africa. Uncertain of his future, he has come to take possession of a local trading post he has naively purchased sight unseen. But what Salim discovers on his arrival is a ghost town, reduced to ruins in the wake of the recently departed European colonizers and in the process of being reclaimed by the surrounding forest. Salim struggles to build his business against a backdrop of growing chaos, conflict, ignorance, and poverty. His is a journey into the heart of Africa, into the same territory explored by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness nearly eighty years earlier—but witnessed this time from the other side of the tragedy of colonization. Salim discovers that the nation’s violent legacy persists, through the rise of a dictator who calls himself the people’s savior but whose regime is built on fear and lies. In this haunting masterpiece of postcolonial literature, short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1979, Naipaul gives us a convincing and disturbing vision of a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past.
V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He came to England on a scholarship in 1950. He spent four years at University College, Oxford, and began to write, in London, in 1954. He pursued no other profession. His… More about V. S. Naipaul
“Naipaul is Conrad’s heir as the annalist of the destinies of empires in the moral sense . . . He transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony.” —The Swedish Academy, announcing the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature
“Naipaul is a magnificent novelist . . . A true aesthete and a true prophet . . . His work exemplifies the art that conceals art, and he is one of the greatest living craftsmen of English prose, perhaps the very greatest.” —The Atlantic
“For sheer abundance of talent, there can hardly be a writer alive who surpasses V. S. Naipaul.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The sweep of Naipaul’s imagination, the brilliant fictional frame that expresses it, are in my view without equal.” —Elizabeth Hardwick
“[Naipaul] watched postcolonial Africa with pitiless lucidity. His clear vision disturbs just as much today as it did when A Bend in the River was published . . . The novel presents uncomfortable truths about the real world and great events. But it is also the story of unimportant people who matter to us . . . [It] presents a terrifying vision of life as it is lived in dark corners of the world, beyond the soporific blanket of western affluence . . . These are men and women trapped in history like flies in glue.” —from the Introduction by Patrick Marnham