My Thoughts: Chinua Achebe's 'No Longer at Ease'

by - 17:09

No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe is my third novel for my personal Iconic African Authors Challenge.

Published in 1960, this was Chinua Achebe's second novel and tells the story of Obi Okonkwo, the grandson of Okonkwo from Things Fall Apart. It is 1950s Nigeria and Obi has just returned to Nigeria after 4 years in England studying English. This was made possible by the Umuofia Progressive Union (the villagers pooled their money to create a scholarship), which he has to pay back within four years of his return to Nigeria. The novel begins with Obi on trial for taking a bribe, and then we go back in time to find out how this honest man (who detests corruption), with a UK education, working for the civil service, with a very good salary, could take a bribe.

Just as in Things Fall Apart  I did find a number of themes. After spending four years in England, Obi now struggles with tradition, the expectations of his village, the UPU and his family to not forget his tradition, and a modern lifestyle in Lagos. Being educated abroad Obi was given a "European post", but this prestigious job comes with a lot of responsibilities. Obi has a lot of people to please, but at the same time, his new Western lifestyle comes with a costly price tag. Obi is faced with many dilemmas and unfortunately doesn't handle them very well. There's also the influence education has had on Obi. While it has enabled him to get a good job, it is also the one thing that makes him different in Nigeria.

The major one to me was corruption. This was the story of an honest man trying to survive in a dishonest Nigeria. I asked myself, how do you resist corruption when it is all around you? Or actually how long does it take to become part of Nigeria's corruption? And what exactly leads an honest man, like Obi, to become involved in corruption? No Longer at Ease does give us an insight into the events that led to Obi being on trial for taking a bribe. 

Again I asked myself "Why did it take me so long to finally read it?", and now I am really looking forward to reading Arrow of God.

4 out of 5 stars.

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