Critical Context

A Bend in the River, like all of Naipaul’s later fiction, is marked by a deeply pessimistic vision. Most reviewers have felt that the novel was a great expression of rage at the inability of the Third World to survive postcolonization, a work that was at once brilliant and cynical, depressing. The problem of colonization has been the subject of great fiction by Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, E. M. Forster, George Orwell, and Joyce Cary. In his interviews and in his essays (particularly “Conrad’s Darkness” and “A New King for the Congo”), Naipaul has stated his admiration of Joseph Conrad, who made the same metaphorical journey in Heart of Darkness that Naipaul was to make into the Congo in A Bend in the River. Conrad’s achievement was his refusal “not to see.” Naipaul has clearly realized the same goal: By focusing on postcolonization, on the aftermath of “independence,” and on the problem of redefining a personal and political identity formed in imitation of colonial fantasy, Naipaul offers a crucial and bitter vision of the struggle of decolonization.