Monday, November 19, 2007

V.S. Naipaul- A Bend in the River

I was neutral about this book. I didn't really like some elements of it- such as Salim's judgement of his neighbour for having a home to go back to (hypocricy, as he called it) when he himself ends the novel by doing the same thing. I felt that his credibility was ruined by this; whether this was an intentional internal lack of awareness instated by the author or just a flaw in the reasoning is unclear. Either way, I felt that it was not explored as an intentional element and was summarily unsatisfactory. I didn't really like Salim's character on other leves; I felt that he was presented in contradictory terms without any kind of unifying explanation; sometimes he is caring and generous, wise and aware of everything going on around him. At other times he is grumpy and stingy, resentful and fairly clueless. No attempt seems to be made to make him realistic and whole, and I felt that since the entire book rests upon his character, this lack of attention was very damaging to the book as a whole.
I did like the presentaiton of hybridity, nationalism, colonialism, post-colonialism and general cultural identity presented, however. I thought the ideas were excellent and the symbolism (particularly that of the title and concept of a bend in the river) was well constructed.
I would say that it was very informative culturally and politically but not particularly compelling reading. I found it difficult to become engaged with the text until a decent way in and even then I was not driven, simply interested. The ending feels anticlimactic but somehow fitting, given the uncertainty of the rest of the book.
All in all, I liked it but I was too distracted by the inconsistencies- and the lack of explanation surrounding the affair with Yvette, which is presumably a metaphor for the two nations they represent- to be too distracting to fully enjoy the book. Although it was by no means unpleasant, I would probably not read this novel again.

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