Sunday, November 9, 2008
A MAN OF THE PEOPLE by Chinua Achebe
I didn’t expect to like this one. Any plot that revolves around politics intimidates me. But I loved it.
This is probably the first African-authored book I’ve read, and I was afraid I would not be able to relate. But the stories of corruption, political violence, and citizens’ apathy hit so close to home.
In a scene where the narrator Odili goes incognito to attend the campaign rally of his political and personal opponent, he stands in the crowd, watches the people on the stage, and thinks to himself:
“What would happen if I were to push my way to the front and up the palm-leaf-festooned dais, wrench the microphone from the greasy hands of that blabbing buffoon and tell the whole people – this vast ontemptible crowd – that the great man they had come to hear with their drums and dancing was an Honourable Thief. But of course they knew that already. No single man and woman there that afternoon was stranger to that news… And because they all knew, if I were to march up to that dais now and announce it they would simply laugh at me and say: What a fool!”
Sounds familiar, huh?
Achebe’s prose is powerful in its simplicity. His fluid narration gives you just enough to capture the events and a smattering of the narrators’ thoughts. Points are not belabored. There is no attempt to pontificate, even when righteous anger at politicians’ injustices may call for it.
As my first Achebe, this inspires me to read more of his works.