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Bend in the River, A

indian salim african novel

a novel by V. S. Naipaul, published in 1979. It is narrated by Salim, an East African of Indian provenance, who, in the aftermath of the disruptions and racial conflicts that result from the politics of African independence, migrates inland to rebuild his career in an unnamed country that resembles Zaire. Here, embodied in a vividly portrayed group of characters both African and Asian, he encounters the new attitudes engendered by colonialism; among these characters are his childhood servant Metty, the sorceress Zabeth and her son Ferdinand (Salim's would-be protégé), the Indian couple Mahesh and Shoba, and the cynical merchant Nazruddin. Salim's transient stability is shaken by the changes in a society caught between the old and the new. He is eventually engulfed in the vortex of prevalent rage and despair, with unfortunate consequences. The perspective of a narrator of Indian origin—simultaneously insider and outsider—serves to illustrate Naipaul's views of post-colonial Africa, allowing him to express contentious opinions in the voice of an onlooker distanced by status and culture from the society he describes. The strength of the novel's fictional elements—description, dialogue, and characterization—ultimately prevail over its powerfully documentary and topical content.

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