A Bend In The River Essay

1307 words - 5 pages

After the completion of his earlier Caribbean novels, V. S. Naipaul began his extended travels andsubsequent writings inspired by those travels. A Bend in the River (1979) results from such anundertaking. The story in A Bend in the River depicts how an emergent African nation struggles againstall odds to be a modernized one. Despite episodes on internal warfare and corruption that effectmigration in and out of the country, it is obvious that there is a continuous thematic concern in thenovel. This thematic concern is structured around a dualism of rootedness and displacement, one thatNaipaul explores the identity and cultural formations of the diaspora. This thematic consistency,therefore, does not preclude Naipaul's credibility of being a superb world novelist as Ian Watt once saidof him. On the contrary, issues that engross the novelist's unwavered attention become particularlyurgent under the turbulence due to faster and more intensified exchanges under globalization.In this paper through a reading of A Bend in the River, I want to suggest that not only does the notionof home is interrogated, but by means of travelling back and forth in time the present can be extendedand expanded. The concern of this paper calls our attention to a renunciation of temporal axis, towhich post-imperial and Third World nations at large refer in their development layouts. I argue thatthe past haunts Naipaul constantly and throughout his narratives he explores the meanings of the pastto constitute his present being. The heritage he is born in and bred is of India and England. His fatherSeepersad, a second generation East Indian West Indian with a failed literary career, exertstremendous influence upon the young Naipaul.1 And Joseph Conrad, first introduced by his father,plays his literary father.2 His two fathers and subsequent travels constitute a triangular structure, inwhich his present identity is continuously being forged. My argument here will be that through adialogue with the past and the future one can realize more about his present situation and theemphasis is accordingly laid in the here and now.In his epochal address of "Tradition and the West Indian Novel" Wilson Harris proposes a radical newperspective for the West Indian novel.3 In it he repudiates the consolidation in the nineteenth centuryrealism, appealing to fulfillment and advocating the importance of imagination (35). For the West Indianliterary tradition mired in Western colonial education and haunted by the shadow of canon, imaginationcan be seen to provide the only possible channel of liberation from this containment. Recently, NanaWilson-Tagoe has given us an exceptional account on how an alternative historiography could be ofvital importance to the West Indian literary imagination.4 Both Harris and Wilson-Tagoe provideadequate theoretical framework in which the politics and aesthetics of the West Indian novel couldengage a creative conversation with both colonialism and global culture.In...

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