The Fiction of Chinua Achebe

By Iheka, Cajetan Nwabueze | African Research & Documentation, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Fiction of Chinua Achebe


Iheka, Cajetan Nwabueze, African Research & Documentation


The Fiction of Chinua Achebe, by Jago Morrison. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. 185 pp. ISBN (hardback) 978-1-403-98671-9, £42.50, (paperback) 978-1-403-98672-6 £13.99.

The various celebrations heralding the recent fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Achebe's Things Fall Apart make it necessary to once more consider the art of the great novelist. Jago Morrison's The Fiction of Chinua Achebe is therefore a right step in this direction.

Divided into six chapters, the work x-rays the critical arguments of some scholars regarding their interpretation of Achebe's works. In the first chapter entitled "Things Fall Apart (1958): Challenging the Canon", such early critical responses to the novel as those of Honor Tracy, G. D Killam, Eustace Palmer and A. G. Stock are examined. The flaw evident in their various interpretations of the novel is their employment of the Anglo-Irish canon as a yardstick for their assessment of an African novel. Later critical responses like those of Oladele Taiwo and Naheem Yousaf, amongst others articulate the established fact that Things Fall Apart is Achebe's attempt at interrogating the distorted Eurocentric views of Africa by writers such as Joseph Conrad and Joyce Cary. Feminist readings of the novel by Rhonda Cobham, Kirsten Holst Petersen and Florence Stratton criticize Achebe's subjugation of women in the novel, perhaps not paying sufficient attention to what extent Achebe was only reflecting traditional African society as it was.

Things Fall Apart is also the novel we encounter in chapter two. Here, Robert Wren and Raisa Simóla, among others articulate the historical developments that form the background to the novel. The second part of this chapter considers the arguments of Achebe himself, Romanus Okey Muoneke and Ode Ogede in their readings of the novel as a text interrogating colonialism in Nigeria, though from different perspectives.

"No Longer at Ease (1960)" is the title of the third chapter and here, the novel of the same title comes under examination. Arthur Ravenscroft, and David Caroli are some of the criticise who attempt to locate the intertextual allusion in No Longer at Ease. David Caroll's dismissal of the novel as a West African novel hardly meeting the demand of universalism is truly incredible. It is rather disturbing how Eurocentric scholars are quick to dismiss any work which does not reflect their expectation as failing the test of universalism.

Caroli and friends need to understand the gulf between the world of Europe and Africa. Such differences should manifest themselves in the literary traditions too. Umelo Ojinmah, Michael Valdez Moses and Simon Gikandi in their historical readings of the novel argue that historical changes in Nigeria, nay Africa, of the 1960s constitute the context of No Longer at Ease.

In their study, Robert Wren, Charles Nnolim and CL. Innes trace the major influences of Achebe's Arrow of God. The arguments of Charles Nnolim and CL. …

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