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A Bend in the River, by V. S. Naipul. New York: Random House. $2.95.

Naipul writes masterfully here of insecurity and freedom of choice in a novel that transcends African politics and concerns to reflect on rootlessness everywhere. A young Indian Trader leaves his family's compound on Africa's east coast to take over an abandoned shop in a civil-war-disturbed central African country (unnamed but resembling Zaire). Naipul captures the extreme tension felt by all during a war that leaves his hero among "outsiders, neither settlers nor visitors, just people with nowhere better to go. . . ."