Reviving The Reading Culture
Build your library with these classics
It has been said that you could hide treasures in a book and the African man won’t find it. Whoever came up with that quote lied, Nigeria alone boasts a Nobel Laureate, five Caine Prize winners and other internationally recognised and award winning authors. Our literary culture might be dwindling but it is not lost. William Nicholson said, “We read to know we’re not alone.” And growing up on what we term “the classics” did help our formative years, the literature we absorbed was responsible for our philosophies, ideologies and influenced our lives extensively.
These classic novels challenged the thought processes of readers and built the foundation on which new generation authors are flourishing.
Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart
Living in the fear of becoming his father, Okonkwo becomes a gifted wrestler and a hardworking farmer which is the polar opposite of his father who was known for being a weakling. Okonkwo grows up to be wealthy, coura
geous and powerful and this earns him respect in his village. His obsession with his masculinity is evident in his curt relationship with his wives, children and neighbours. A series of unfortunate events and the arrival of the European missionaries weaves a tale of the downfall of Okonkwo the macho man. Things Fall Apart is the first book in the trilogy which includes No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God.
Wole Soyinka: Aké: The Years of Childhood
Wole Soyinka takes us through his formative years growing up in the village of Aké in Western Nigeria. He narrates the most exquisite tale of a young boy growing up in an era of conflicting ideologies such as the
culture of the Europeans and the Yoruba culture, being raised by Christian parents and the effect of his grandfather who believes in the Yoruba spiritual traditions. We are immersed into the world of Wole, a curious, intelligent, mischievous and highly imaginative child as visualised by the vivid conjuration of the sounds, aromas and sights of the world that shaped him. All with the humour and delight of a child’s perspective of the world.
Isidore Okpewho: The Last Duty
Is all really fair in love and war? We are answered as the events unfold in this novel. The main characters are Aku, wife of Oshevire, who has been unjustly jailed courtesy of his competitor Toje, a selfish, local chief and rubber farmer who seeks to use the circumstances of war to his own advantage and Major Ali Idris, a federal commander assigned to protect the village and its citizens. The pressure of the war gives way for questionable character in the novel, we see Aku succumb to the will of Toje in the bid to survive. Toje is a proud and selfish man who must claim whatever prize he feels boosts his ego, including Aku. The intriguing part of this novel is the use of dramatic monologue to capture the inner conflict that engulfs each character. We can all point our fingers and play the blame game but who remembers duty when their backs are against the wall?
Buchi Emecheta: The Joys Of Motherhood
The world of Nnu Ego captures the struggles of mothers and women during World War II. Nnu Ego as a child is the pride and joy of her father and is given the best. She grows up to become a beautiful woman who marries a wealthy man but is sent back to her father’s house because of her inability to bear children. She remarries Nnaife, who is not her ideal man but she grows to love him. The war destabilises her family and Nnu Ego is laden with
becoming the bread winner which she does with the main aim of making sure her children have the best. Throughout her journey as a woman, Nnu Ego is dealt one harsh blow after the other right until the day she dies. The title of this novel is a paradox as joy wasn’t witnessed for Nnu Ego in her journey as a mother.
Chimamanda Adichie: Purple Hibiscus
The theme of this novel was heavily influenced by post-colonial Nigeria, a time of political and economic turbulence and religion. The story is told through Kambili’s eyes (main character), a young girl of 15 with a courageous brother Jaja, soft hearted mother, Mama and tyrant for a father (Eugene). Eugene restricts and controls the life of his family, in the case of disobedience, he resorts to extreme violence which creates a bond between mother and children. Kambili’s life changes when she and Jaja go to visit their Aunt Ifeoma in Enugu who by all standards is a free-spirited woman. This vis
it is a pivotal moment in their lives. They are introduced to a different idea of family, and as they taste the sweet wine of freedom they resolve to escape the bondage they were accustomed to by any means necessary.