Dr Peer has beautifully captured the essence of Achebe and Soyinka works

Dr Peer has beautifully captured the essence of Achebe and Soyinka works

Dr Peer explains how Okonkwo’s death signals the end of African customs and ethos, culminating in an all pervading sense of a ‘total loss..

Post colonial literature comprises a myriad voices, each imparting a different colour to the colonial canvas as painted by the once oppressed. Among its strongest voices is African literature that has grown by leaps and bounds since most African nations gained independence in the 1950s and 60s. Its predominant theme centers on the dark continent’s engagement with the fair west as encapsulated by the leading lights of this realm – Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka in their novels.

Dr Peer in his book A Critical Study on the Novels of Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka has beautifully captured the essence of their works, providing a panoramic view of African society and the colonial discourse there under. 

His analysis follows a chronological order spanning the advent to colonialism to the dawn of nationhood. To begin with, the change of old guard is fraught with challenges for any new nation that suffers a simultaneous erosion of identity. This is subtly hinted at by Dr Peer who calls the period that of “consequent mutation”. To quote Peer Sahab

“These novels, besides expressing the general strain tension prevailing in Nigeria, also give a very good account of the ethnic, ritual, traditional, tribal and conventional values of the societies that are depicted within their ambience.”

Achebe is more forthright with terming it as “new injustices” in exchange for old ones. His Things fell apart portrays the hegemonic invasion of natives, the assault on their culture, land, principles and religion, that has led to the disintegration of the Igbo community.

Dr Peer explains how Okonkwo’s death signals the end of African customs and ethos, culminating in an all pervading sense of a ‘total loss.. 

Similarly No Longer At Ease emphasises the chaos that follows hard earned freedom. The link with the pre colonial era has disappeared like a glorious rainbow in the sky, while the path ahead is tumultuous. The protagonist Obi’s optimism and romantic view about his society gives way to frustrated aspirations and disenchantment. The book takes note of the marked shift in freedom – not literal, but metaphorical, not of community, but individual.

In the last novel of this trilogy – A Man Of The People  Chief Nanga is the a personification of the modern politician – wily, cunning and calculating devoid of morality. As alluded to in Dr Peer’s book, the so called hero of the novel is actually an anti-hero – a vestige of colonialism who embodies the seemingly benevolent but actually malevolent purposes. Equally the mob mentality is critiqued and a fresh insight of self introspection offered.

 Further the book correctly analyses how the writers in deconstructing their context employ the two most obvious pillars of colonisation – administration and education, to expose the crudity beneath the garb of civilisation.

Similarly Soyinka’s The Interpreters and Season of Anomy point to the collective failure of society. The former is a typical modernist novel devoid of any order, structure and plot where the juxtaposition between the political haves and the intellectual have nots is deliberate as it mirrors society.

Notably the characters though intellectuals do not enjoy a moral high ground as is Egbo’s case. They either become corrupt, are disillusioned or escape reality seeking refuge in art. The latter is a story of clash of naked expansionist greed with declining native values.

Dr Peer has been astute in his critique of the African writers and how their work serves to counteract the Whiteman’s meta-narrative. The book does a commendable job of collating the seminal works of African literature in English between its covers.

Equally he has done justice to the writers, providing a gainful insight into their aim of rewriting history from the subalterns’ perspective, of reclaiming and reinstating lost glory by valourising the indigenous cultural identity.

However the book does stop short of questioning the drawbacks of colonial literature. Its key criticism i.e. employing English as a medium that not only leads to an appropriation of colonial language but is largely seen as subverting the vernacular traditions and as an example of successful anglicisation. Also, while the ill effects on the occupied are documented that on the coloniser are not so it can seem a tad exclusivist.  

Nonetheless his book offers a much valued and deep insight into the dark continent’s subjugation into and struggle with colonialism with it far reaching ill effects. He rightly highlights the role of the black writer as being the torch bearer of his society, invested with social responsibility than mere word power. As beautifully summed up by him with reference to the two novelists:  

“They show a society in chaos, turmoil, anarchy, depravity ad rigid conventions and at the same time realize their responsibility to free it from such ills and problems. They play the educative role, and try to help and explore the basic issues of their society, which is a valuable exercise in all creative writings, and, hence, worthy of critical exploration.”

 A comprehensive and thoroughly engaging read, the book has much to offer to students and literature enthusiasts. It contains a multi dimensional analysis of the pioneering works in the the African literature and is an indispensable read for anyone wanting to gain an insight into black history. The book is of particular significance to the post graduate students who can enormously benefit from Dr Farooq Peer command over the subject as he has been a stalwart in his field with rich experience in academics as Head of the Departments in various colleges and a body of much acclaimed work to his credit.


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