Elleke Boehmer


Nearly twenty-one years in the coming, it was to be expected that, when compared to his last novel, A Man of the People (1966), Anthills of the Savannah (1987) would show a marked elaboration in Chinua Achebe's novelistic interests.1 The novel, as Ben Okri remarks, is 'his most complex and his wisest book to date'.2 Dealing with the cynical calculations and calcifications of Africa's latter-day power-elite, and the bankruptcy of Sixties and Seventies nepotistic politics, Anthills of the Savannah is in a sense a sequel to A Man of the People, which explored themes of political corruption and military takeover on the eve of Biafra. But Achebe's view of that elite and its politics in the wider African context has become more uncompromising and - at least theoretically - more attuned to gender and populist ideas. Unlike in the earlier novel, the elite can no longer be expected merely to engage in dramatic but gratuitous actions in defence of its political honour. Rather, it must revise its power base and its understanding of leadership, opening its doors to traditionally excluded groups in so doing. Achebe signals this change in attitude by admitting to his narrative representative members of 'the people' - taxi-drivers, a shop assistant, the urban poor, and, towards the end, a market woman.



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