Friday, June 30, 2017

No Longer at Ease, by Chinua Achebe

In Chinua Achebe's No Longer at Ease, it's the 1950s in Nigeria, and the colonial presence of the English is still strong.  Obi Okonkwo is among the privileged few who has the opportunity to study in England.  Upon returning to Nigeria and obtaining a position with the government, he finds himself straddling two worlds.  He's torn between city life and village life, the expectation to have money and the reality of his low salary and high expenses, the culture of his family and the love of someone from another caste.

The strength of No Longer at Ease is the cultural snapshot Achebe provides.  This was a pivotal time in Nigeria's history, and Obi's experiences and struggles reflect those of his generation.  He earns a respectable salary, but it quickly gets eaten up with the bribes he is expected to pay, the support his is expected to provide to his home, and the repayment of his "scholarship."  At the same time, he resists the culture of bribery.

Besides his financial struggles, Obi falls in love with a girl from another class.  His parents don't approve.  In fact, his mother tells him she will commit suicide if he marries her!  Obi turns his father's faith back on him, reminding him of Paul's admonition that all are equal.

Despite the cultural lesson of No Longer at Ease, I did not enjoy the story much, such as it is.  It has its qualities, but the qualities that make it a book I'd read again or recommend to a friend are lacking.

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