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First of all, I love the beautiful simplicity of this story of change and spiraling evolution in a crossroads African village on a Bend in the River (Congo?).
Here is a modern novel, way above the class of the recent wave of complex and cliche ridden historical fictions. Here is a 'tip of the iceberg' novel, where so many layers of meaning and emotions arise out of an almost childlike diary-like narrative and run very deep. I was thinking about this book for a week after I read it and, could not, did not want to start another book until this one had settled a little in my psyche - A lot like listening to a great piece of music or having a spectacular meal and then not want to here or eat anything special for a while.
I found the experience of reading/listening to be nothing less than transendental, on the order of a Kawabata or Steinbeck. This is the counterpart to the difficult modern fiction of Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf, and even Rushdie. Here, less is more and absolutely no struggling is required on the part of the reader, yet the author seems to effortlessly take you to on a journey that is compared to Hearts of Darkness, but there is nothing murky here. The waters are clear and devastating.
23 of 23 people found this review helpful
This story is presumed to be set in early post-colonial Congo (formerly Zaire, formerly the Belgian Congo.) Salim, through whose eyes we experience the story, is a young ethnic Indian from Eastern Africa, where he has few opportunities. He is given an opportunity to take over a small business in a town "at the bend in the river" in Central Africa, where he goes to live. There, he makes a living and forms friendships and liasons with others from the community and with outsiders, like himself, who have settled there. He earns respect as one who can be depended on. He takes in not only a younger member of his old boyhood household in the east, but also the teenage son of a trader. Through the eyes of Salim, we feel an optimism for this developing country and experience the sense of belonging and drive to survive of everyone living there: from the citizens of the region to the European ex-patriates. As the story shows the country beginning to dissolve into chaos and lawlessness, we have the feeling that we are witnessing close-up the human story behind the news reports we sometimes read about strife-torn countries. This is a well-told story, with an interesting plot, a varied cast of characters, and the fascinating backdrop of modern history in Africa. The narration of Simon Vance is superb.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
If you're interested in central and east Africa in general, and the DRC in particular, you've doubtless read 'Heart of Darkness', 'King Leopold's Ghost' and 'In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz'. Don't miss this classic novel, which provides an engrossing first-person account of the life of an Indian shopkeeper in the remote east of what was then called Zaire. The view through the eyes of a single shopkeeper makes a grand accompaniment to those other, broader texts. The story begins before the ascendancy of President Mobutu Sese-Seko, describes the initial excitement that his authoritative reign created - often overlooked by other commentators - then traces the collapse of the regime and the country into corrupt anarchy. The characters that appear along the way symbolise many of the major attitudes towards this abortive African renaissance - the naive academic credulously serving the Big Man, disappointed ex-pats sliding into bored debauchery, arrogant young students bitter as they realise the lies they have been told, the Africa-loving priest brought to a grisly end - and, of course, the foreign traders trying to live in two worlds to profit from it all, yet with the dreadful risk of losing everything hanging over them, a threat that adds real tension to the story.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Heart of Darkness 100 years later? Also set in the Congo, the story recounts the experience of an young Indian man who tries to make a living as a tradesman during the 1960'es and 70'es on the banks of the Congo. The author provides insight and perspective on the post-colonial experience, but the reader is still left outside the phenomena. The darkness remains, the wonder at the seemingly irrational behaviours, the violence, the randomness etc. But maybe that is exactly the message?
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
So much emphasis on white people's stereotypes of Indian accent. The recording adds an element of funniness to Indians which was not intended or implied in the written work.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful