The Chinua Achebe Encyclopedia

By M. Keith Booker | Go to book overview
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, the fiancé of Elsie when she first became sexually involved with Odili Samalu, the narrator of A Man of the People, back during his college days. When Samalu and Elsie had first had sex, she had called out the name of Ralph, then away attending medical school at the University of Edinburgh. This event leads Irre, a fellow student and local wag, to dub Samalu “Assistant Ralph.” Ironically, when Elsie later has sex with Chief Nanga even as Samalu is approaching her room in the expectation of a sexual liaison, she calls out Samalu's name at the key moment.

M. Keith Booker


, by Simon Gikandi (1991), remains one of the more important critical discussions of Achebe's work. Gikandi's book derives its strength from its rigorous contextual analysis, which places Achebe's writings in their proper political, socioeconomic, and cultural perspectives. It is only by situating Achebe's novels in the colonial and postcolonial realities that produced them that we can even begin, Gikandi claims, to understand how they represent those realities in narrative. His study shows how Achebe's novels not only describe Igbo and Nigerian societies but also reinvent them. In so doing, Gikandi uses the ideas of Edward Said, specifically the latter's insight in Orientalism that one way of coming to critical terms with the postcolonial condition is to analyze not so much its content as its form. Gikandi's debt to Said's methodology is evident in the scrupulous attention he pays to the narrative structures of Achebe's five novels.

Beginning with Things Fall Apart and proceeding chronologically to Anthills of theSavannah, Gikandi examines the new set of narrative paradigms that Achebe's gradual shift away from the encounter between Africa and the West and toward more localized conflicts required. With each novel Achebe has written, the oppositional relation between colonizer and colonized has become less secure and more fragmentary, so that the dualities that seemed to configure Things Fall Apart have gradually collapsed. Achebe's shift away from binary forms of representation and his subsequent search for different forms of narration coalesced, Gikandi illustrates, with his disillusionment with the Nigerian nation. “Clearly, narration in the postcolonial situation could not be predicated on the evocation of a precolonial past nor a postcolonial future, Gikandi explains in his


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