CHINUA ACHEBE - No Longer At Ease.


 "No longer at ease has lived so long under the shadow of it's predecessor that its uniqueness as a work of global modernism has often been overlooked. Also overlooked is the novel's original evocation of an emerging postcolonial culture and the crisis of a young African trying to find bearing in the chasm between a dying colonialism and stillborn independence."


  After reading Chinua Achebe's first novel, "things fall apart", (I wrote a review here) I knew immediately that I had to read "No longer at ease" even if it meant that I had to scour through the earth to find it, fortunately I didn't have to do that. I really didn't care for any of Achebe's books in the past because I was under the impression that they were boring- I still haven't finished reading "there was a country", but so far I've enjoyed his writing and even found myself adapting some of his writing techniques, but since you're obviously not here to read about writing techniques, let's get to the book review.

Chinua Achebe's second novel, No Longer at Ease, is now considered to be a classic of African Literature.

An Introduction by Simon E. Gikandi (Edited by me)
Achebe was celebrated as a writer with an innate capacity to recuperate the past, as he had done brilliantly in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God, or one attuned to the political crises surrounding the Nigerian state, the subject of A Man of the People, his fourth novel. At a time when African Literature was still read within a schematised structure in which the history and culture of colonialism was juxtaposed with the promise and failure of decolonisation, No Longer at Ease didn't fit into either side of this structural and historical fault.

No longer at Ease was the first to reflect on the divided nature of postcolonial societies and the crisis of producing subjects in the chasm between colonialism and its imagined future. The theoretical and critical issues that are now considered to be central to African writing -the relationship between rural and urban spaces, the identity of the postcolonial subject caught between the claims of tradition and the pull of modernity, the meaning of the present in discourses about the past - are all themes in this novel. In this context, the novel needs to be read as a powerful representation of the crisis of being postcolonial and modern, while seeking legitimacy in the moral economy of tradition and custom.

The novel is best read in terms of what it is not. It is not a recuperation of a pre-colonial African culture for all of Obi's (the main character) attempts to recover a usable family history only bring him face to face with a fragmented Igbo past. It is not a novel about the future, for by opening the narrative with Obi's failure, Achebe precludes any notion that his character might be redeemed as the person who embodies the aspirations of the new nation at a future time. Unable to anchor his character in a usable past, or to project a utopian future, Achebe's novel forcefully makes the present its centre, rehearsing and dramatising the desires, anxieties and life-styles of urban African elite as it tries to negotiate its way through hazards of historical rupture, a process that, as Obi discovers, is painful and unpredictable.


Like in Things Fall Apart, Achebe outdid himself in his second novel and although Obi's fate was decided at the beginning of the novel, it still maintained a sense of misery, so even when I knew what Obi's fate was, I wanted to know how he got there (being a very promising character and all). It's one of those novels i'd read again in the near future. If you've read No Longer at Ease, or any of Chinua Achebe's novels tell me what you think in the comments. Bye!

-A.O MARTINA