No Longer at Ease

Chinua Achebe | Nigeria

Recently I became interested in collecting books from a series of African titles published during the 1960s and 1970s. Chinua Achebe was the founding editor of the African Writers Series that published books by African authors including novels, plays, poetry, short stories, and autobiographies. The first one I ever owned was The Great Ponds by Elechi Amadi, that I read in secondary school. I was recently able to find Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and Arrow of God, all written by Achebe and published under this series.

No Longer at Ease focuses on a young man named Obi Okonkwo who is given the opportunity to study in England at the expense of a local organization in his village, with the understanding that he not only repay the debt after his return, but that he would do his part in opening doors for others in the village. Set during the time of British colonization of Nigeria, Obi is unprepared for fulfilling his village’s expectations and also navigating the bribery that has become customary in the civil service where he works.

There is also a growing tension between him and his father about a woman Obi wants to marry, but who has a traditional curse on her family’s name. These differences in generational points of view adds to the story, illustrating an emergence of “new-age” thinking that he acquires from his peers in Lagos.

Achebe explored old versus new generational ideas of success in a country still subservient to Britain. Themes focus on Religion, marriage, and financial responsibilities, but ultimately, Obi is young, trying to break away from traditional expectations yet struggling to fit into a new life in Lagos, to which he is unaccustomed.

Next up for me in this series, is to re-read Things Fall Apart (it’s been over 10 years since I read it), then move on to Arrow of God. Achebe published 6 books under the African Writers Series and I’m currently searching for A Man of the People.

“Look at me Obi. What you are going to do concerns not only yourself but your whole family and future generations. If one finger brings oil it soils the others.”

-Chinua Achebe

First published: 1960

Chinua Achebe was born in 1930 and died in 2013. He’s the author of numerous books that includes poetry, literary criticisms, and novels.

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