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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Evocative Return to the Themes of Things Fall Apart
This splendid short novel demonstrates Achebe's continuing ability to depict the challenges posed to African societies by modernism and Western influence. It details the plight of three educated, upper-class Africans attempting to survive in an atmosphere of political oppression and cultural confusion. Set in the fictional African country of Kangan, it is clearly...
Published on July 30, 2000 by Bill Jackson

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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Achebe quills pill. `Hills' thrill=nil.
Not that I have anything against Chinua Achebe as an author, mind you. I liked those early novels like "Things Fall Apart", "Arrow of God" and "No Longer at Ease" when I read them back in the 1960s. Achebe was kind of a herald for me---announcing the arrival of African literature in English on the world scene. I used them as I taught Anthropology, not because I was...
Published on November 16, 2007 by Robert S. Newman


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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Evocative Return to the Themes of Things Fall Apart, July 30, 2000
This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
This splendid short novel demonstrates Achebe's continuing ability to depict the challenges posed to African societies by modernism and Western influence. It details the plight of three educated, upper-class Africans attempting to survive in an atmosphere of political oppression and cultural confusion. Set in the fictional African country of Kangan, it is clearly patterned after Achebe's native Nigeria, though one can also see elements of Liberia and Ghana.
This was the first Achebe novel I had read since his classic Things Fall Apart. At first, I thought that Anthills suffered in comparison with that masterpiece, arguably the best known and most influential African novel. After finishing the book, though, I realized that Achebe had very deftly returned to and updated the themes raised in that book.
His protagonists are Ikem, a courageous and opinionated newspaper editor; Chris, his friend and predecessor as editor, now the somewhat-reluctant Commissioner of Information in a military-led government; and Beatrice, a brilliant, beautiful mid-level civil servant, also Chris's lover. Each studied abroad and is comfortable tossing off literary references and cultural cues from the West. At the same time, each is proud of and clearly shaped by his/her African heritage.
Kangan is ruled by a smart but narrow-minded military officer who rose to power following a coup. "His Excellency" is also coincidentally and not at all implausibly an acquaintance of all three main characters, bringing a very personal dynamic to the struggles they face as Ikem sharpens his already bitter criticism of the government, to the professional discomfort of Chris and the personal alarm of Beatrice.
I found the first half of the book a little hard to get through at times. The prose is often overwrought and the narrator changes from chapter to chapter, making it difficult to follow. Further complicating things is the frequent use of West African dialect, especially in dialogue between the lead characers and their less-westernized compatriots. While this brings a ring of authenticity to the work, it also requires close attention by non-African readers to divine the literal meaning of the deceptively familiar words. As the novel progresses, though, the confusing switch-off of narrators ends, the prose becomes sharper, and the storyline clearer.
Achebe sprinkles humor liberally throughout the book. The characters serve up a steady stream of clever, expressive African aphorisms. The most memorable of these are delivered by a tribal elder from Abazon in an impromptu tribute to Ikem. Achebe also paints vivid and funny accounts of a monstrous traffic jam, a confrontation with soldiers at a checkpoint, and an up-country bustrip. those who have spent any significant time on the continent will nod their heads and chuckle at these uniquely African scenes.
As in Things Fall Apart, the insidious influence of the West is depicted mostly indirectly. While there are no major European characters, the cynicism of Western expatriates and the cluelessness of Western journalists are reflected quite well in two minor characters, a British doctor who administers the local hospital and a visiting American reporter. More often, though, the specter of Western influence hovers in the background. One sees it in the alienation of the lead characters from their roots, most vividly in Beatrice's reminisces of her village childhood and university days in Britain.
In the end, Achebe seems not so much to be blaming the West for Africa's problems as pointing out the ways in which, years after independence -- and even longer since things first "fell apart" -- African societies continue to struggle with the legacy of colonialism. The villains are not Europeans but the opportunistic soldiers, politicians, and businesspersons who came to power afer the departure of the colonists.
Achebe's perceptiveness and skillful sketches of characters make this an important work, a period piece as representative of contemporary, post-independence Africa as Things Fall Apart was of colonial Africa.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars where is my country today?, October 11, 2001
By 
Doug Anderson (Miami Beach, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
Achebe wrote three classic books in the 1950's and then after a long hiatus returned to the novel with the publication of Anthills in 89. The earlier books dealt with the effect of modern civilization on traditional African life. This book uses one nation as an example of what is happening with many nations as they struggle to find their own version of modern life without altogether letting go of tradition. The characters are all educated, many in the west, but strictly western modes of rule do not work in third world conditions quite as smoothly as they do in industrial conditons. Big changes are needed and a big leader is needed to effect those changes quickly and successfully but that age old maxim applies here as elsewhere: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A great book showing how good intentions can quickly go wrong. Achebe tells the story through the personalities playing a part in it and so you never feel he is making abstract points. He shows the human side of these dramas we so often see played out on the 6'o clock news. A touching and tragic book. Achebe is a fascinating person to see interviewed as well, perhaps the most articulate and insightful spokesman on modern Africa as it searches to find its shape.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never a dull moment......an excellent piece of work, January 24, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
Chinua Achebe has produced a masterpiece in "Anthills of the Savannah". Set in fictional Kangan, Achebe spins a highly intriguing tale of three men who grew up in school together but find themselves increasingly alienated from one another professionally when one of them (not the smartest but the smoothest) declares himself President in the aftermath of the overthrow of the civilian Kangan government. Conflict of conscience issues generated by moves by the would-be dictator to consolidate his power over his people threaten to destroy their friendship and loyalty. It is no longer the white man who is responsible for the grinding poverty of the masses but the revolutionary fighters whose corruption and lust for power undermines their cause. Achebe is also brilliant in his characterisation. Ikem and Chris are vividly drawn and full bodied personalities, as are Beatrice and Elewe. Even minor characters like Professor Okong who appears only in the novel remain sharply etched in one's mind long after they have disappeared from the scene. "Anthills of the Savannah" remind me a little of V S Naipaul's "Guerillas" but it is by far a superior work. A thrilling and highly engaging piece of work by a literary giant.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Political life in a modern African country, December 2, 2006
By 
Brandon Wilkening (Ithaca, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
The story in this book is set in the fictional modern-day African country of Kanga. The action revolves around three central characters. Chris holds the position of "Commissar of Information" in the president's cabinet; he basically has the final say in what gets printed in the country's newspapers and broadcast on the airways. Ikem is the editor of the country's leading newspaper. He and Chris are friends have been friends since school. Finally, Beatrice is a mutual relation of both of these men. She and Chris are romantically involved, while she and Ikem have a close but strictly platonic relationship.

The story revolves around how these three and their relationships are affected by the creeping authoritarianism that has been taking place in Kanga. We learn that both Chris and Ikem are boyhood friends of the president, whom his obsequious ministers address as "His Excellency." His Excellency took power in a military coup that was intended to quash instability and then restore democracy, but as in most real-life African military governments, it stayed on after this original mandate had expired and turned into a full-fledged dictatorship. His Excellency is the archetypical African ruler. Trained in a European military school, he quickly rose up through the ranks because of his loyalty to his superiors, and when he seemingly accidentally gets installed as the new ruler, expects similar obedience from his aides. Like all authoritarian rulers His Excellency feeds off playing his subjects against each other. Eager to curry his favor, His Excellency's ministers spread rumors about each other and attempt to sow discord.

In such a cynical, amoral, power-driven world, Chris and Ikem are clearly sympathetic characters. Achebe does a good job of describing what it is like to be a reform-minded, idealistic politician in contemporary Africa. Both Chris and Ikem received their college education in the U.K. and returned to Kanga hoping to build a vibrant democratic nation, only to get sucked into the web of corruption and authoritarianism that has been so typical of post-colonial Africa. Both try to deal with the situation in their own ways. Chris is more pragmatic; rather than open insubordination to His Excellency, he thinks that he can try to reform the situation from the inside. Ikem, on the other hand, openly criticizes the government's policies in his editorials.

For me, Ikem was the most convincing and sympathetic character. While he openly criticizes the regime, he is no naïve revolutionary. There is a great scene in which he gives a lecture to a group of university students. While he urges them to vigilantly pursue their convictions, he also takes a few jabs at Marxist theories of imperialism. I think Ikem's character is probably closest to Achebe's own views; while he faults the West for its general neglect of Africa and frequent embrace of its authoritarian leaders, he also places much of the blame for its predicament at the feet of its own corrupt, self-interested leaders. The character of Beatrice, while sympathetic, did not seem as instrumental to the story as that of the two men. Achebe clearly intended for this character to represent an educated African woman, and there is even a chapter written in the first-person from her point of view. While the chapter is interesting in itself, it seems somewhat disconnected from the larger story.

Overall, I think that Achebe portrays an intriguing and realistic portrait of contemporary Africa. Although the book was written nearly 20 years ago, it did not seem dated at all. While Achebe accurately portrays the venality and corruption of African political leaders, he also depicts the genuine humanity and indomitable will of both ordinary people and leaders who are trying to bring about change.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, if challenging for this American, May 24, 2006
This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
Our library book club read this book last month,and I'm grateful, for it's not a book I'd likely have picked up on my own. It's a story about a group of friends from a fictional African country who attended an elite school in England and then later found themselves all with roles in the country's postcolonial government, with one friend becoming a reporter. The tale seems to have many layers: exploring the effects of their education abroad on the way they view their country; the corrupting properties of power; losing and regaining connections to their homeland; shifting dynamics of friendships in the face of power; and much more.

I was able to appreciate the poetic writing style, the shifting point of view, the nonlinear narrative (without telling us we're flashing back or forward), the references to folk stories, the proverbs that were unfamiliar to me, and the use of pidgin English in some of the dialog. I enjoyed being exposed to a writing style different from what I'm accustomed to. However, this made the book very difficult for this book devourer to get through. Still, if you'd like to expand your horizons, read this book. Just be prepared to maybe feel a little disoriented, but keep reading; you'll be rewarded in the end!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars masterpiece, January 17, 2000
This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
This is indeed a masterpiece by the grandmaster of the African novel.As usual Achebe brings his characters to life in an amazing way.The setting is a fictional African country and the main characters are three men who met in high school the seemingly seperate lives they lived until a point when fate joined them together again is indeed the tragedy of modern African states.You have the military men,the sychophants,Pseudo radical intellectuals and of course the endlessly suffering masses whom all groups profess to know their problem.It is indeed recommended reading for anybody remotely interested in not only African but Latin American politics.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Achebe quills pill. `Hills' thrill=nil., November 16, 2007
By 
Robert S. Newman "Bob Newman" (Marblehead, Massachusetts USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
Not that I have anything against Chinua Achebe as an author, mind you. I liked those early novels like "Things Fall Apart", "Arrow of God" and "No Longer at Ease" when I read them back in the 1960s. Achebe was kind of a herald for me---announcing the arrival of African literature in English on the world scene. I used them as I taught Anthropology, not because I was engaged in African Studies, I was not, but because they portrayed a whole world, an interesting one, of different values, different life plans, and opened up such a world to students who could not have got anything remotely similar from dry textbooks. Achebe wrote of African history and politics from an African point of view. Well, I left my job and Achebe kind of receeded into the background. Recently, I thought I would renew my acquaintance with his work and picked up a copy of ANTHILLS OF THE SAVANNAH. I must say I was extremely disappointed. Wooden characters and a very preachy plot that jerks around, never running smoothly or deep. In a state reminiscent of Nigeria, a military dictator rules but feels the crown rest uneasy upon his brow---so to speak. Stereotypical characters abound. Corruption and the sycophantism of people around a strong man are hardly new topics in the world. Achebe has picked a highly relevant topic for sure. Many conflicting interests surround the government in every country, some in opposition, some in support. Do the common people ever get a day in the sun ? Not likely ! However, the vicissitudes of tyranny have been written about in far better ways. For example, read Garcia Marquez' "The Autumn of the Patriarch". If you have never read any Achebe, please try one of his other books. I could hardly wade through this one. It's true that the theme is very relevant to modern Africa, but we are judging literature here, not politics or economics. I don't think this novel measures up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars acute observations and beautiful prose, September 11, 2006
This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
After reading excellent non-fiction about the situation in Africa by Ryszard Kapuscinski, I felt ready for Chinua Achebe. "Anthills of the Savannah" is his first novel I've read. At first, I thought I would be disappointed. In the first half of the novel, the political topic combined with very dense prose, constant changes in the narrators and frequent use of pidgin English from the region made the mix for me hard to swallow and requiring very much undisturbed attention. Luckily, the second half of the book is the prize for patience, the action starts to develop very fast, the plot is engrossing and the book is difficult to put down until the end.

The novel, set in the imaginary African country of Kangan, ruled by the military regime established after the coup, is built around three main characters: Ikem, the editor of the national newspaper, an idealist from the remote province, who identifies with the problems of the nation and seeks solutions (to his peril); Chris, the Commissioner for Information in the current government, suffering from critical attitude, but also somehow soft-hearted; and Beatrice, a thoroughly modern, intelligent and beautiful woman, a girlfriend of Chris and friend of Chris and Ikem. All three had the luck to get the best quality education in Europe, speak excellent English, but in reality only Ikem is not removed too far from his native people to feel what needs to be done in the country.

The central complication and the fact which is the starting point of all the subsequent events is that Chris, Ikem, and the dictator, His Excellency (or Sam) are former colleagues from the same school.

The country is in chaos, the permanent drought and poverty in the Northern province of Abazon causes destabilization, His Excellency is not popular in that region, his insecurity grows and with it his destructive tendencies. He wants to stay in power by al means... Even if it includes persecuting his friends and loyal collaborators.

Achebe managed to include in his novel powerful insights into the reality of many African republics, struggling with corruption, natural disasters, poverty, illiteracy, lack of national consciousness and influence of former European colonizers, at the same time making the novel an interesting story, evoking the images of vast African savannahs and rainforests, the humor of the people and the deep love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A bleak Little England", April 28, 2008
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This review is from: Anthills of the Savannah (Paperback)
"Anthills" remains Achebe's only novel published in the last four decades; he has otherwise confined his literary output to stories, children's books, poems, political journalism, and criticism. Although he is still primarily known for the ubiquitous "Things Fall Apart," I think this later and distinctive work is nearly as good, abandoning allegory and myth for a bitter realism and a torn-out-of-the-headlines plot.

The story concerns three friends who studied together in England before gaining prominence in the fictional West African nation of Kangan. Sam assumes power following a coup, Chris Oriko takes a position as Commissioner for Information in Sam's Cabinet, and Ikem Osodi becomes editor of a newspaper critical of the new government. For each man politics and postcolonial Africa have a different meaning: for Sam, they are means to stability through a strong-armed rule that quickly deteriorates to authoritarian self-aggrandizement; for Ikem, the idealist, the new government owes its existence to the people. Caught in between is Chris, the practical member of the trio, who sees the need for firmness yet understand the dangers of Sam's egotism.

What truly unites--and divides--all three men is the time they spent abroad. Even Ikem's connection to "the people" is hesitant and insincere. For all Ikem's idealism, Chris's pragmatism, and Sam's self-absorption, the three men have in common the wall that separates each of them from the people they govern. "But why are all you fellows so bent on turning this sunshine paradise into bleak Little England? Sam is no bloody queen," asks a British expatriate, a longtime friend of the group. "The most awful thing about power is not that it corrupts absolutely but that it makes people so utterly boring, so predictable."

But perhaps the strongest character in the novel is another British-educated government official, Beatrice Okoh, who is also Chris's erstwhile girlfriend. In a pivotal scene fraught with menace, Sam invites her (sans Chris) to a dinner intended to convince the American press that all is well in the sate of Kangan. Beatrice becomes little more than Exhibit A for the prominent role of women in Sam's government, and she bridles against the artifice. Her lack of diplomatic tact is just another dangerous spark among the group of friends; as Sam's insecurities multiply, every confrontation, every sarcastic rejoinder, every challenge becomes a threat to the state, and soon every act performed by even his closest friends is seen as insubordination.

In the end, the problem with Kangan's elite is not simply the lingering prevalence of Western influence or that the leaders look to the West for answers and approval. Rather, the new purveyors of African self-rule are not very different than the old colonizers: they have forgotten that the heart of the nation--its very reason for existence--is its people and their traditions. Given the intractable division between rulers and ruled, the despair of the final chapters is hardly surprising--but Achebe suggests that hope might yet be found in the next generation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful Novel, March 30, 2014
The insight given by the author on any number of topics is well worth the read. A little slow at first, but the novel really got good. Probably worth a second read.
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Anthills of the Savannah
Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe (Paperback - February 4, 1998)
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