A Bend in the River Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Bend in the River.
This section contains 494 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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A Bend in the River Summary & Study Guide Description

A Bend in the River Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul.

A Bend in the River is the story of an Arab-African man, Salim, and his journey through the rule of Mobutu Sese Meko of Zaire. Salim's family is of Indian descent and has lived on the eastern coast of Africa for generations. Aware of the country's growing unrest, Salim becomes unsure of the future of his family in that area. He buys a store in the interior of the country. The town is a natural market point by a bend in the river. There he works and waits for the town to rebuild from the destruction of the revolution.

A family servant tells Salim that his hometown was attacked and that his family has scattered. Salim slowly makes friends with other people, who are waiting for the town to re-emerge. He meets a woman who buys his merchandise and returns to a remote village. She is able to make this dangerous journey, because she is a magician with protective ointments. She brings her son to town to go to the newly reopened school and asks Salim to look after him. He reluctantly agrees.

As the town begins to grow, the President builds a huge government complex outside the city. Through a childhood friend, Salim is introduced to the people who work and live there. He begins an affair with the beautiful wife of a government historian who works for the President. Many call the older man "The Big Man's White Man."

Another revolution threatens and tensions build. Salim viciously beats his lover and decides to get out of Africa for a while. He travels to England and becomes engaged to a woman from his hometown. He returns to Africa to close-up shop and get his money. He finds the President had "nationalized" all property owned by foreigners. A drunken, uneducated former mechanic now owns Salim's business.

Salim begins dealing in gold and ivory and tries to get as much money as possible out of the country. He is caught with ivory and jailed, because he will bribe the police. In jail, he is untouched, but he watches as boys who have been kidnapped from their villages are beaten and forced to memorize tributes to the President. The young man, he has watched over since childhood, bails him out. The young man has gone from a schoolboy to a government official with authority over the town.

The man tells Salim the country is in desperate turmoil and holds no safe place for him. He tells Salim to leave the next day. The family servant begs Salim to take him along, but he doesn't have a passport or visa. Salim gives him his car and tells him to lie low and wait for the unrest to end.

The steamer Salim gets on is attacked, and when an attached barge full of people is cut loose, the people onboard are killed. The story ends with Salim on the steamer ship, sailing away in the dark.

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This section contains 494 words
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