Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #83

Title: A Bend in the River
Author: V.S. Naipaul
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: This cover actually tells a lot about the book and about Naipaul's perspective-- the photo visually represents his impression of Africans as unknowable and obscured by ever-changing masks.

Thoughts: I really liked this book. It very thoughtfully depicted post-colonial life in an unnamed African country (although it is almost certainly Zaire/Congo). The book is narrated by Salim, a young merchant whose ancestors came to the African coast from India generations earlier. Salim takes over a trading post in the interior of the continent, and as the leader of the fledgling nation rapidly consolidates power, he and his compatriots are at first unwilling and later unable to leave. The events that follow are devastating, and the prose, though sparse, is evocative. Salim's impressions of Africa as an outsider and an insider at the same time are revelatory, and his description of the continent as a force separate from and transcending above humanity is powerfully enlightening.

Here's the first sentence of the book as a little teaser: "The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it."

Definitely recommended.

NOTE: I promise to stop reviewing books 2+ weeks after I finish reading them. OK, I promise to try-- you can't fault me for trying, can you?

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