Context: finished this off while doing weights. Jogging’s on hold as my left hamstring recovers from a slight strain.
Okonkwo is a man who doesn’t do things by halves. Proud and determined, he battles with himself, his own culture and eventually, the culture of the invading white man. As the title suggests, things don’t go particularly well. Achebe has written a stunningly important book which raised the profile of Nigerian writing from nowhere to a deserved place on the world stage.
The book is written in a prose which well captures the culture of the tribes Achebe describes. Because he’s writing as an insider, to a certain degree, you get a great insight into ways of thinking that would be alien to you unless you had Achebe translating for you. As a result, you come away with a deeper understanding of how the world works. This is anthropolgy in novel form.
By the time the white man and the missions arrive on the scene you are firmly in the world of the tribe. I think here though, the book shows the weakness which stopped me from giving it a superb rating. The missionaries involved are pretty one-dimensional and stereotypical. There’s the syncretist and the fundamentalist. It’s a shame that Achebe paints these characters as black and white as this in a book exploring cutural differences and understandings.
His portrayal of Okonkwo’s brush with Imperial authority though is very well done and sets up the ending very well indeed.
Okonkwo was well-known throughout the nine villages and even beyond.
He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.
rubbish | poor | mediocre | okay | good | very good | excellent | superb