Thursday 11 August 2016

No Longer At Ease is a book written by Chinua Achebe. I first read Arrow of God many years ago, maybe when I was 10 and I remember the frustration I felt that I had a torn copy with missing pages, which did not contain the end. I kept thinking about it for years till I found a complete version but weirdly enough, I didn't remember much about the 2nd time I read it.

I found a lovely website which had an e copy of the book and I could not wait to read it again. I finally read it a few days ago and let's say this time I devoured it word by word.

Obi Okonkwo is a young man, about 25 years old who moved from his village secondary school, straight to university in England thanks to a scholarship fund by his community, Umofia. If Umofia sounds familiar, it is. Okonkwo, the major character from Achebe's earlier novel "Things Fall Apart" hails from Umofia and is in fact Obi's grandfather. Obi's father is Nwoye, Okonkwo's first son whom he had disowned for following the ways of the white man. I love how  Achebe takes us back subtly to "Things Fall Apart", without actually delving into much detail.

Obi is struggling to adapt to a Nigeria he does not recognise, one newly filled with corruption and people of questionable character. Growing up in a very protective bubble from his rather protective and almost overzealous Christian father, Obi finds it hard to integrate into the new corruption he finds engulfing Nigeria. He falls in love with a rather independent and unapologetic Clara, who unfortunately is deemed unsuitable by his family and community, as she is an osu.

Obi finds himself torn between love and duty - to his family, his country and to himself. It is a battle which sadly, seems to consume Obi. Some important issues picked up on are listed below;

1. Obi's father became a Christian & rejected his own father Okonkwo and the ways of their ancestors deeming them as barbaric. He however has not fully let go of the ways of his fathers, as he rejects Clara, showing that he is still a slave to tradition.

2. Obi is under immense pressure. As a young graduate who has studied abroad, he is expected to behave and look a certain way, pay for his siblings fees and basically take care of the family and community. This pressure is still mounted on individuals even 50+ years later, in African societies. Obi is fighting a battle with who he is and who is is expected to be, as everyone has different expectations of him.

3. Poverty is a recurring theme in this book. Obi's parents in the village are struggling to make ends meet, starving and poor. The villagers who offered him the "scholarship" are all poor. In fact, Obi who is living the Nigerian dream- studying in the UK and working for the government as a senior civil servant- is actually quite poor. Evidence of his poverty is shown by his old friend Joseph bringing drinks for the mourners who come to visit Obi as he knows Obi can not afford it.

4. There is the attitude of the colonial Europeans in Africa who seem to love only a certain part of Africa. People like Obi's boss, Mr Green love the uneducated Africans who need, seek and crave their approval. However these same men hate the educated and enlightened African as they are a threat to their pseudo sense of superiority. This has not changed.

I really loved watching Obi's struggles, not because I am mean but because it shows he is human.
I loved how Okonkwo's shadow looms over Obi and his father Isaac (Nwoye) though it doesn't overshadow them, and their characters are explored. Okonkwo is a massive character that I inadvertently kept trying to compare Isaac (Nwoye) and Obi to him.

I kept trying to imagine how Okonkwo would have reacted if he was in certain scenes in this book. I believe Obi's explosive reaction at the meeting when the President quizzes him about his plans to marry an osu bride would definitely have made Okonkwo proud. However the Obi who seems defeated and resigned to fate reminds me of Unoka, Okonkwo's father.

And what exactly was the verdict in Obi's case at the end? We can only guess, as only one person knows the answer to that question and sadly, he can't tell us any more. We can only imagine.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to read your views. Please drop your comments or tweet me @ZibbyJ


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Hiya, im Zibby and this is a brief intro about me :)

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