Africa and the Novel by Neil McEwan (auth.)

By Neil McEwan (auth.)

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No one denies that Achebe has written a novel, but the Novel is conceived as a genre to be filled in with more or less truckling to its 'European conventions'; Achebe is sometimes praised for Africanising the genre and sometimes reproached with 'looseness'. The unity of Things Fall A part is easier to recognise when the narrator is seen as an editor of stories not themselves novelistic which are shaped by a novelist's eye for design. The editor is omniscient, recording the most private feelings of Okonkwo, Nwoye, Ekwefi, and the thoughts of Ikemefuna moments before he dies.

Eustace Palmer comments that 'there is satire here ... at the white man's effeteness and the 46 Africa and the Novel spiritual bankruptcy of the Roman Catholic Church whose priest attracts boys to Christianity by throwing them lumps of sugar'. 11 Oyono's reference to une robe de femme, incidentally, seems aimed at French rather than African anti-clericalism, since robes are not thought effeminate anywhere in Africa and since for African villagers a cassock signifies powers which are thought manly.

Evil' and 'crime' are offences against the Earth punishable by the goddess. 'Control' is more likely to mean magic or 'medicine' than technical aids. 'Village' has something of the force of the Greek polz"s. 'The world' soon fades into 'strangers' and implausible rumours beyond the nine villages. 'The dim past' is two generations away. The smaller physical scale and larger spiritual dimension of daily life in Umuofia brings about many other kindred semantic shifts, of which the author is plainly sometimes archly aware.

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