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Book Review | Wole Soyinka's dark narrative of Nigeria

Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka’s first novel in close to 50 years, is a stunning account of political corruption in a country that is his own homeland.

Published: 28th November 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2021 01:39 PM   |  A+A-

Nigerian essayist and playwright Wole Soyinka (Photo | YouTube screengrab)

Express News Service

Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka’s first novel in close to 50 years is a stunning account of political corruption in a country that is his own homeland. The plot of this many-dimensional story reveals a secret society that deals in human body-parts for sacrificial uses. And it is not some fringe lunatics group but its members come from the very top echelons of political and religious figures in the land. 

This whistleblower of a book exposes the underbelly of Nigeria riddled with corruption and unravels the sinister facets of state-sanctioned murder. Only someone of the eminence of Soyinka could have dared to write this book that takes the reader beyond the rainbow tints of satire to reveal Papa Davina, who is a cult Guru crafting his own words of wisdom through his all-purpose non-secular ministry Ekumenica, which is little more than a hollow front for sick deeds.

Reading the book is so much like a drive up a mountain road without rails, and sets your teeth on edge. As if this were not enough, he is working alongside the crafty Sir Goddie, the Head of State. Call it their racket or call it their secret society, both would mean the same thing: the warped ruling elite of Nigeria. 
As Africa’s most representative writer, Soyinka is a poet, playwright, essayist and novelist. In the 1960s, they flung him into jail for writing about the Nigerian civil war.

Twenty-six years later he became the first one from Africa to get the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chronicles... is the story of four friends who are called the Gong of Four, and who try to keep their soul intact in a troubled society, where wealth from oil revenues smudge the very soul of those who should have been role models. The 400-odd pages of the book would have been darker than dark but for the author’s gift of humour and ability to laugh at the ruling clique that throttles with murderous intent.   

As a reader, you will find yourself in the vortex of what is essentially wrong when the state goes into a moral tailspin. I can almost hear the witches in Macbeth gathered around their pot muttering: ‘Fair if Foul! And Foul is Fair!’ Shuffling around them is a fourth—Soyinka—unfazed, forging his tale.  Of course, you might just tire of this journey into the murky darkness of the human soul with its matter-of-fact style. But who am I to quibble with my petty cavils with someone who has journeyed through a difficult landscape yet kept the faith? 

Chronicles... is a great novel especially because after almost 50 years, Soyinka has managed to put his magical sword of words to grindstone to let the sparks fly. After all, there is Lord Acton’s dictum: ‘Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!’

The book is a must-read especially in the times that we live in. 

Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth
By: Wole Soyinka
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 444
Price: Rs 699



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