Africa and the Novel by Neil McEwan (auth.)

By Neil McEwan (auth.)

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Communion is 'holy feast'; a new convert will take his drinking-horn. The court-messengers are 'Ashy-Buttocks' because of their khaki shorts, or kotma as English begins to supply lbo with loan-words. But the perspective is increasingly distanced linguistically from the events; although nobody in the villages understands English and the missionaries depend on interpreters, Achebe intrudes vocabulary for which there would be no African equivalent throughout Part 2 and Part 3: 'pastor', 'parsonage', 'church', 'Sunday', 'service', 'heathen', 'Devil', 'prophets', 'temple', and 'missionaries'.

Said the wife of the American pastor with a strong accent. 'It's certainly not New York City', said her plump companion, fatuously. The other whites pretended not to understand. The two of them laughed together as if they were alone. 'There are no morals in this country', groaned the doctor's wife, trying to sound as if she were in despair. 'Nor in Paris for that matter', came back the schoolmaster. The remark ran through the bodies of the Europeans in the room like an electric current. They shuddered, one by one.

Okonkwo is a determined conformist, psychologically very simply conceived, but he is more memorable as an individual than many characters in modern fiction, including his grandson Obi in No Longer at Ease. The Umuofians take a lively interest in character and allow for individual frailties in their laws, provided that the Earth and the gods are not offended. The ease of one villager's quarrel with his wife is sensibly judged by the senior masquerader 'Evil Forest'. When someone wonders why so trivial a case is brought before the egwugwu, he is answered: 'Don't you know what kind of man Uzowulu is?

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Africa and the Novel by Neil McEwan (auth.)
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