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No Longer at Ease Paperback – September 16, 1994
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Praise for Chinua Achebe
“A magical writer—one of the greatest of the twentieth century.” —Margaret Atwood
“African literature is incomplete and unthinkable without the works of Chinua Achebe.” —Toni Morrison
“Chinua Achebe is gloriously gifted with the magic of an ebullient, generous, great talent.” —Nadine Gordimer
“Achebe’s influence should go on and on . . . teaching and reminding that all humankind is one.” —The Nation
“The father of African literature in the English language and undoubtedly one of the most important writers of the second half of the twentieth century.” —Caryl Phillips, The Observer
“We are indebted to Achebe for reminding us that art has social and moral dimension—a truth often obscured.” —Chicago Tribune
“He is one of the few writers of our time who has touched us with a code of values that will never be ironic.” —Michael Ondaatje
“For so many readers around the world, it is Chinua Achebe who opened up the magic casements of African fiction.” —Kwame Anthony Appiah
“[Achebe] is one of world literature’s great humane voices.” —Times Literary Supplement
“Achebe is one of the most distinguished artists to emerge from the West African cultural renaissance of the post-war world.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“[Achebe is] a powerful voice for cultural decolonization.” —The Village Voice
“Chinua Achebe has shown that a mind that observes clearly but feels deeply enough to afford laughter may be more wise than all the politicians and journalists.” —Time
“The power and majesty of Chinua Achebe’s work has, literally, opened the world to generations of readers. He is an ambassador of art, and a profound recorder of the human condition.” —Michael Dorris
From the Publisher
The story of a man whose foreign education has separated him from his African roots and made him parts of a ruling elite whose corruption he finds repugnant. More than thirty years after it was first written, this novel remains a brilliant statement on the challenges still facing African society.
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In this second novel, we find the grandson of chief Obi Okonkwo being sent to the West to study the white man's language, culture and ways. When the grandson, also named Obi, returns to Lagos, Nigeria from England, he secures a prestigious desk job that takes him far away from his cultural and ancestral roots, back in his bush village. But the long arm of his traditional community reaches and influences him, even while he tries to learn and accommodate to the ways of modern Nigeria. In the process, the new, young functionary finds city women, personal finances, white coworkers, his higher education and changing life habits to be an overwhelming challenge. Soon the younger Obi finds that he truly cannot escape his past, in order to satisfy his present life. As much as the hero Obi tries to overcome the demands of his new city life, he is ever pulled down into the morass of public failure, as he strives to be a modern, Western-educated Nigerian.
In the conclusion, the inevitable happens to Obi, due mostly to his naivete about how to navigate the new Nigeria, as a savvy and city-experienced modern man of Lagos. The main character is a typical good guy caught between the old and the new. As a result, Chinue Achebe's trilogy are continuing cautionary tales about how one can appear as one thing on the outside but can also be quite another kind of evolving being, on the inside.
If one enjoys the famed works of Mr. Achebe, other worthwhile, African authors are: Nadine Gordimer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zakes M'day, M. J. Vassanji, Abdulrazak Gurnah or Ben Okri. All are masterful authors about how Africa thinks and works of Africans.
However, "No Longer at Ease" is a good, definitely worthwhile read.
I do feel that this edition is lacking due to the omission of "The Journey of the Magi" at the beginning. One of the questions posed to us about this in class was "Why do you think he started the book with a poem by Eliot?" and those of us with this edition had no idea what he was talking about.
In adition to the ex-pat experience, Achebe inserts the peculiarly Nigerian experience, in which a group of British still retained some of the leadership positions in civil service while native Nigerians were mostly focused on politics. The moral aspect is also noteworthy, as the widely accepted corruption and favouring done by Nigerians in power was not mirrored by the British.
Aside from the socio-historical aspect of the novel, Achebe is very sensitive in showing the downward spiral of young Obi, as he tries to fight against strong unreasonable traditions (such as with his girlfriend who is of a banished caste). Obi gets enmeshed in a vicious cycle in which he needs to show success, to a point in which his salary can longer sustain his lifestyle, which is forced upon him by expectations.
I highly recommend this book, especially to ex-pats of any nation. As an ex-pat returned home myself, I feel many of the same difficulties Obi did. Obi's anguish and pain are crystal clear, and any ex-pat will relate.