I recently finished a compilation of 3 of Chinua Achebe’s novels: Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and Anthills of the
It is this first collision between European colonists and the Igbo tribe in
I’ll admit that Achebe’s portrayal of the Christian missionaries felt as true as it was frustrating. Frustrating because I identify myself as a Christian, yet sympathized more with the traditionalist characters than the Christian ones. Because in all the I have spent in sub-Saharan African countries I had never once asked a national about their perception of colonization. Because I had never read about the colonization of
The second book in the volume, No Longer At Ease, translates these themes into a
Anthills of the Savannah, the final installment of this volume, takes the themes present in the first two novels and develops them into their late-20th century manifestations. The reader is thrust into a chaotic West African dictatorship struggling to maintain a pretense of democracy in the face of an increasingly restless population. Achebe gives a more intimate exploration of the characters’ thought lives, and the novel swells with poetic daydreams and inspiring speeches. The point-of-view transitions from character to character, which makes the first few chapters a bit disorienting when read immediately after the simple third-person narrative of the first two books. But after I was accustomed to this different style and the new characters, Anthills of the Savannah became my favorite of the three works. This book provides a more comprehensive view of a West African nation; the reader meets the president, members of his administration, academics, cab drivers, market-ware hawkers, and slum-occupants. As the regime unravels, Achebe slowly adjusts the focus of the story from the primary individuals onto the community that they become. The rediscovery of traditionalism and community within the urban modern context is the salvation of the people that find their lives upended by the political chaos. The main characters must draw back from their individualism into community which is protective and close-knit, yet open and hospitable story. Once these developments occur, the hope, dynamism, and beauty of these characters, and thus of the modern West African experience, finally shine through the tragedy that was wrought by colonialism and continued by the corrupt and abusive. This sunrise of hope—even amidst the suffering—is made even more precious by the despair witnessed in Achebe’s first two works.