The man who gave Africa a voice
Last week, the literary world lost Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, the man who is hailed as the father of modern African literature and best known for his stand against colonial oppression. His debut novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), showed Africa as honestly and poignantly as possible, and remains Achebe's best work. SMD brings you some of the man's other, lesser-known books which are just as powerful in the message they convey
Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart was first published in 1958, but every developing society in the world continues to relate its present with the events and concerns Chinua Achebe expresses in it. Readers, young and old, continue to identify themselves with the disintegration of succumbing values that have plagued human history.
Things Fall Apart tells the story of the highly-respected Igbo clan leader, Okonkwo. His world, which he is proud of, changes when the European missionaries arrive at his village with the Bible. The tribe begins to convert to Christianity and old ties are forgotten.
These famous lines in the book, perhaps, explain Achebe’s genius the best: ‘The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers and our clan can no longer act like one.’ The book was the first of a trilogy, often called The African Trilogy.
Arrow Of God
Arrow of God won the first ever Jock Campbell/New Statesman Prize for African writing. The third book in the trilogy, Arrow of God is about Ezeulu, the chief priest of the god Ulu who is highly revered by six villages.
After a British overseer intervenes in a battle between Ezeulu and a nearby village, he calls the latter to be a part of the administration. Meanwhile, a Christian missionary begins criticising local Nigerian customs and tries to draw the locals towards Christianity. Ezeulu refuses to be a part of the colonial administration and is sent to prison. Eventually the villagers lose faith in Ezeulu and begin believing that the god, Ulu, has, indeed, abandoned the priest. The village converts to Christianity.
Chike and The River
Chike and the River was the first of Chinua Achebe’s many stories for children. Written in 1966, the book has traces of Things Fall Apart as the protagonist, a young boy of 10, struggles between tradition and the modern. Chike is fascinated by the idea of crossing River Niger to see what is on the other side.
Chike leaves his home in Umuofia to live with his uncle in Onitsha where everything is different, to put it mildly. "In Umuofia,” Achebe writes, “every thief was known, but here even people who lived under the same roof were strangers to one another. Chike was told by his uncle’s servant that sometimes a man died in one room and his neighbour in the next room would be playing his gramophone. It was all very strange.” He goes to school, makes friends, but Chike must pay the price of trying to collide tradition with modernity.
Anthills Of the Savannah
Anthills of the Savannah is a 1987 novel which was finalist for the 1987 Booker Prize for Fiction. It is set in the fictitious West African country, Kangan, where British officer Sam has all the power after a coup.
Achebe describes the trials of the people through the lives of three friends--Chris Oriko, the government’s Commissioner for Information; Beatrice Okoh, an official in the Ministry of Finance and girlfriend of Chris; and Ikem Osodi, a newspaper editor critical of the regime.
No Longer at Ease
The second part of the African Trilogy, No Longer At Ease, is about the conflicts in the life of Okonkwo, an East Nigerian, who leaves his village to be educated in the West. He is constantly pressurised by the men of his tribe to not let go of their tradition and demand payback because they funded his education when he was young.
But the book is best known for beautifully etching the strain between Okonkwo’s relationship with his father, who is a staunch Christian. No Longer At Ease also brings forth the conflict the protagonist faces while living amid ‘evil Western influences’. To add to it all, Okonkwo falls in love with Clara who the tribe believes is from a cursed family. Okonkwo must choose between love and pleasing his father and the tribe.
Bihar Breakthrough: The Turnaround Of A Beleaguered State
The book looks at what the Nitsh Kumar administration has done for Bihar since 2005. Was Kumar alone responsible for where Bihar stands today? Has the state really bid goodbye to the dark days of lawnessness and underdevelopment?
Published by Rupa
Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012
The authors claim to “shed much new light” on a group frequently described as the most lethal actor in the current Afghanistan insurgency, and shown here to have been at the centre of a nexus of transnational Islamist militancy for decades. It also documents the Haqqani network’s pivotal role in the jihadi movement.
Vahid Brown & Don Rassler
Published by Hachette
Walking With Lions: Tales From A Diplomatic Past
The author features Indira Gandhi as a statesman and mentor alongside other renowned figures such as Fidel Castro, Haile Selassie and Zia-ul-haq. He is candid in some accounts and admirable in case of others.
K Natwar Singh
Published by Harper Collins