Jozef Imrich, name worthy of Kafka, has his finger on the pulse of any irony of interest and shares his findings to keep you in-the-know with the savviest trend setters and infomaniacs.
''I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.''
"Whatever arrogance you have - is the past lesser or greater? It's all the same. And loss is loss is loss. And so wars are united, because they are big loss machines. They drive families apart and then some people don't come home. ... And that's why they're so instructive, because they remind us again and again of the worst of us. And we hope in some ways that by studying it you might mitigate it, but it won't. There will always be wars and everybody feels it the same." (podcast plus transcript) … [Read More]
It's not often that I'm floored by a contemporary novel -- I mean, really, truly taken. But that was the case with A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipaul's harrowing account of the period following African independence.
With the exception perhaps of Rushdie, I can't remember reading a novelist with such an evolved style, such a clear sense for the way words are meant to interact. For its syntax alone, A Bend in the River is to be celebrated. Naipaul's language is evocative, emotional, precise. It captures the chaos of that time, but also its sense of wonder and possibility.
Naipaul's novel is about more, though, than fabulous writing: it's a book about race and gender, and about ethnicity. Many of Naipaul's most memorable characters are outsiders: from Europe, from India and Persia. Their reflections -- and their interactions with native Africans -- serve as the lens through which Naipaul evaluates two recurrent themes: power and identity.
At all moments, in virtually all scenes, Naipaul is attuned to power: how it is generated -- and how it is maintained. Some of the novel's most haunting passages focus on this theme. "They say it is better to kill for days than to die forever," he writes.
Power is at the root of identity here, and A Bend in the River is nothing if not a meditation on how characters come to terms with themselves in a world that can be bitterly indifferent. Even the most corrupt among Naipaul's characters recognize that their deficiencies, their perversions are a function of power: Naipaul writes, for instance, of a man "enraged by his own helplessness." Self-realization can be a painful thing.
Ultimately, A Bend in the River is a novel attuned to cycles: how power emerges and retreats, how individuals realize their potential at one moment, only to see it collapse at another. I can't say enough for just how successful this book is. The last word is reserved for Naipaul:
"Unless I acted now, my fate would be like theirs. That constant questioning of mirrors and eyes; compelling others to look for the blemish that kept you in hiding; lunacy in a small room."