A short, plaintive, moving novel that with very simple language paints a detailed picture of a pre-colonial agrarian African community and then shows,...moreA short, plaintive, moving novel that with very simple language paints a detailed picture of a pre-colonial agrarian African community and then shows, through the rise and fall of the protagonist, Okonkwo, the beginnings of the disintegration of that society in the face of colonialism.
But this is not a sentimental dewy-eyed paean to traditional African society: Achebe’s depiction of the tribal way of life is remarkably even-keeled, showing both the horrifying (domestic violence, ritual /animistic murder, etc) alongside the happier moments without a hint of authorial value judgment working its way through in the prose in either case.(less)
I first heard of Etienne Leroux this past summer when I went through a Graham Greene phase. I came across a NY Times review of a Greene biography that...moreI first heard of Etienne Leroux this past summer when I went through a Graham Greene phase. I came across a NY Times review of a Greene biography that mentioned, parenthetically I think, that Greene loved the novels of the South African writer Etienne Leroux. Curious, I went out looking for his work. "One for The Devil" is the only book I could locate within the libraries of the five boroughs of NYC.
This is the second book of a trilogy, all three books of which take place on the Welgovonden farm. "One for the Devil" is ostensibly a whodunnit where a woman is found sexually abused and murdered and a detective, the absurdly physically fit and stuttering Detective-Sergeant Demosthenes H. DeGoede, arrives on the farm compound to investigate. The detective is "guided" about the compound by Dr. Johns, a master manipulator who slyly biases DeGoede's perceptions of the people he is introduced to, and is eventually directed toward the person who Dr. Johns wants convicted in an obvious effort to create a scapegoat.
Leroux, through the character of Dr. Johns, does quite a lot of ruminating here on man's need to come to grips with the "monster in his dark past", the id that, in Leroux's micro-society, is held unsteadily under the boots of simple farmers. But this is not a dark, plodding novel - if anything, it's comedic, with a lot of the deadpan, absurd humor that reminded me of parts of "Our Man in Havanna." There are even some subtle, creepy, hinted-at perversions that seep through the mortar of the Welgovonden farm like moss on a stone wall which, though disturbing (like DeGoed's fascination with a pair of young girls, and their even more unsettling Lolitaesqe reciprocation) were so strange (yet so perfect) that I laughed out loud despite feeling wrong about it.(less)