Thoughts on No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God, the second and third volumes of Chinua Achebe’s "African Trilogy":
"Let them come and see men and women and children who knew how to live, whose joy of life had not yet been killed by those who claimed to teach other nations how to live."In a book about a young Nigerian man who starts the story full of hope as a new university graduate freshly returned to his homeland from England and ends as a victim of "the good life", that line struck me as painfully heartbreaking. Obi Okonkwo, grandson of the main character of Things Fall Apart: A Novel, despite his education, is woefully unprepared for the real world, and once his optimism for the future is cracked it doesn’t take long for his ethics to fail also. One could easily insert a soapbox lecture concerning present-time corporate America here, but I’ll save that for some other day. Suffice it to say there are a lot of parallels just begging to be drawn. Not to mention the obvious political one that could be hinted at in the opening quote.
From No Longer At Ease, p. 57.
No Longer at Ease was a quick read and I enjoyed it very much. Comparing it to Things Fall Apart (see my review here), it was interesting to see life from the perspective of one of the Ibo people who was assimilating into the European Christian way of life. The picture is not pretty.
Arrow of God returns the central point of view to village life, albeit one that is already in mid-transformation. Chief Priest Ezeulu battles to continue Ibo traditions, but the White Man’s influence slowly whittles away his power in the community until the inevitable end.
Both of these simple but beautifully crafted novels made me sad. Not "depressed" sad, but more akin to "why do people suck so much" sad. I know. Not a very scholarly description, but there you have it. And hopefully the feelings I’m taking away from Achebe’s "African Trilogy" will stay in my mind as I watch the leaders of my own country and help me make better decisions regarding who I want at the helm of this strong and potentially dangerous nation. There I go getting all political again. I think I need to give Mr. Achebe’s writings a rest before I find myself picketing on the streets! :-)