The opening of V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend In The River:
The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.
Nazruddin, who had sold me the shop cheap, didn’t think I would have it easy when I took over. The country, like others in Africa, had its troubles after independence. The town in the interior, at the bend in the great river, had almost ceased to exist; and Nazruddin said I would have to start from the beginning.
I drove up the coast in my Peugot. That isn’t the kind of drive you can do nowadays in Africa – from the east coast right through to the centre. Too many of the places on the way have closed down or are full of blood. And even at that time, when the roads were more or less open, the drive took me over a week. (p 3)
At independence the people of our region had gone mad with anger and fear all the accumulated anger of the colonial period, and every kind of reawakened tribal fear. The people of our region had been much abused, not only by Europeans and Arabs, but also by other Africans; and at independence they had refused to be ruled by the new government in the capital. It was an instinctive uprising, without leaders or a manifesto. If the movement had been more reasoned, had been less a movement of simple rejection, the people of our region might have seen that the town at the bend in the river was theirs, the capital of any state they might set up. But they had hated the town for the intruders who had ruled in it and from it; and they had preferred to destroy the town rather than take it over. (p 67)
Some representative quotations:
I asked for a cup of coffee, and no cup of coffee ever came to me more quickly at the van der Weyden. It was a tiny old manwho served me. It was a tiny old man who served me. And I thought, not for the first time, that in colonial days the hotel boys had been chosen for their small size, and the ease with which they could be manhandled. That was no doubt why the region had provided so many slaves in the old days: slave peoples are physically wretched, half-men in everything except in their capacity to breed the next generation. (p 76)
We’re all going to hell, and every man knows this in his bones. We’re being killed. Nothing has any meaning. That is why everyone is so frantic. Everyone wants to make his money and run away. But where? That is what is driving people mad. They feel they’re losing the place they can run back to. I began to feel the same thing when I was a cadet in the capital. I felt I had been used. I felt I had given myself an education for nothing. I felt I had been fooled. Everything that was given to me was given to me to destroy me. I began to think I wanted to be a child again, to forget books and everything connected with books. The bush runs itself. But there is no place to go to. (p 272)