Anthills of the Savannah

Sometime back I finally read another book from Achebe. I liked this book, though not so much as the first one – Things fall apart. That was certainly Achebe’s masterpiece and I was expecting something comparable when I sat down with this one. That is the folly of expectations and that is also the trouble with beginning on an author with his signature work.
Anthills of Savannah is a story of a nation facing the political conundrum of a new found independence. After years of ruling, it is expected that a country finds itself unable to take charge of a freedom, which it severely struggled to obtain. It is almost like you wait for exams to get over and when they are finally over you do not know how to manage the free time since you have been so focused on seeing them through that your head is heavily blocked up with that.
Achebe describes this confusion through the lives of three political leaders and through alternation of narration tries to give a wholesome picture. However at times, the different narrators do not seem too different but appear as one. In that he has failed to give multitude to his thought.
The book is dark, almost inadvertently it appears, because it starts off with satire and winds up being a serious story.very serious indeed. There appears to be a lot of confusion in the book -not just in the story, but in the writing style also.
In the end, it is a political work, and describes the aftermath of colonialism. Many countries witnessed such destabilization after they freed themselves. Some more than others. Even our country sometime appears to be in similar clutches at time when the Government looks unsteady like a house of cards, ready to tumble down with the merest flicker. But hopefully those are the turbulences of a mature nation rather than a stumbling one.

Things fall apart

I have been meaning to write this post since last week, but a busy travel schedule has kept me from it. Last wednesday, Chinua Achebe, the author of one of my beloved books, Things Fall Apart, was named for the 2nd Man Booker International award. Though I have read only one book from this author, this news delighted me immensely, for the honor is as much for the book as for the author. It is the most celebrated and widely acclaimed book from Mr. Achebe and has helped generate a lot of interest in African writing worldwide.

Things fall apart is a story of an African community (Igbo). Narrated from the tribal perspective, the book seams wonderfully the superstitions of the people and their unflinching faith in supernatural. To an outsider, the thought process seems illogical, almost fantastic at points, but for a native it is life as usual. The usual rituals, the usual sacrifices, the usual faith – to them their Gods are much more real than to most of the world that we read about. The turning point in the story is the advent of colonialization, arrival of Christanity and rapid conversion of the community, which leaves its identity shattered and broken.

The narration of the book is avant grade and the flow is arresting. The darkness of the book touches you at times, but then the author steers it away from depression skillfully. Towards the end, one cannot help feeling the deprivation of ‘unification’ and ‘civilization’, for it leads to the loss of essence and identity of a culture. Though written from an African perspective, it is truly a colonialization story, a narrative of a pain felt by each culture brought under foreign subjugation.

Mr. Achebe is a Nigerian author, and feels strongly about the marginalization of African values by Europeans, which is a theme which underruns many of his works. He has been awarded many honors, though passed over for the Nobel, which many of his fans feel to be an injustice. The Man Booker International award will certainly please most of the fans, as this award is intended to be a lifetime achievement award. The award itself has been freshly commissioned in 2005 and is give every two years. Mr. Achebe is the second person to get this award after Ismail Kadare in 2005.

Congratulations Mr. Achebe for the award. And congratulations to the Booker community for making such a fitting choice.