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The second book by Chinua Achebe tells the misadventures of Obi Okonkwo, grandson of the protagonist of “Things Fall Apart“, in a Nigeria loyal to the United Kingdom. A truly exceptional novel to fully understand the mental colonization that took place in these places.
No longer at ease
Obi Okonkwo is an educated young man full of ideals, thanks to the privilege of an education received in Great Britain. Now he has returned to Nigeria and works in the public administration. In this role, he comes into close contact with rampant corruption in the government of the country, the only system that really seems to administer things. Obi manages to resist the bribes offered to him, but when he falls in love with a girl of a lower social class – with the disapproval of his parents – he sinks into an ever deeper emotional and economic abyss. Suddenly resisting the temptation for easy money becomes impossible and Obi gets into a trap from which he doesn’t know how to escape.
Post “Thing Fall Apart”
In this novel, Chinua Achebe brings us back to the events of the Okonkwo family, which in the first book we had left in the small Igbo village of Umofia. The story follows directly the fate of this clan, which has gone from being proud opponent of the colonizers to a real cog in the British system. The choice is not accidental but it is necessary to show the reader how much Nigeria has changed in a few years, going from a traditional African state to a real extension of the United Kingdom.
It will be in Lagos that Obi, our protagonist, will discover the weight of modern society, entangled more than ever in struggles for any privilege. In this sea of money and corruption, Obi will do everything to keep himself afloat, however tempted by the great privileges brought by the British and by education, a path that can only lead him to his own destruction.
Chinua Achebe shows once again his incredible talent in telling Africa and Nigeria, this time with a story set in similar times. Not only the issue of mere colonization, Obi’s return to his homeland will also be the prince of the novel, a dynamic that will then be addressed also by Tayeb Salih in his masterpiece “Season of migration to the North”. If for Europeans study trips are almost the practice, this cannot be the same for populations such as the Igbo who lost all dominion and wealth precisely because of the English.
The journey then becomes a necessary sacrifice of one’s ideas and customs, aimed at a future made of wealth and well-being. This wraps the whole novel and becomes its absolute cornerstone. With this idea, in fact, the members of the community will ask Obi for results at the level and the conviction of “being superior as a European” will become an excuse for many of the protagonist’s behaviors. The novel anchors, showing the mental colonization in all its simplicity and, at the same time, in all its drama. “No Longer at Ease” is the last chapter of the most important African trilogy of all time, an essential part to learn about Nigerian culture and history.