Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Bend in the River

Although the idea here was supposed to be to write about issues relating to my work on development economics, I recently read A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul. I had previously read one of his books partly set in Mozambique (Half a Life) which I remember finding enjoyable but not particularly inspiring. A Bend in the River is different though and I found all sorts of angles to it which were pretty insightful - on the experience of Indians in Africa, on being an outsider in Africa, on the risks taken by individuals to set up businesses in unfamiliar countries, on the transient nature of a large part of the trading sector in SSA (and the world I suppose). I'll need to read Naipaul's biography before I can make more insights but it seems this inability to feel a part of the country one is in as an immigrant is a major theme based on his personal history.

On a simlar, theme I also recently read a book about an Ethiopian immigrant and his two immigrant friends in the US, called The Things that Heaven Bears. The themes are something of the same as Naipaul's with a bit of the history of the overthrow of Selasse thrown in for good measure, adding an element of "I may be miserable here but at least I'm not there, even if my family is". All those mixed feelings of an ex-patriate perhaps.....

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