Everyman's Library Presents The African Trilogy and I Am Moved by the Title

The African Trilogy

This publication contains three novels by Chinua Achebe, all in one volume. Here is some information about The African Trilogy, with an introduction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Amazon Product Description

Here, collected for the first time in Everyman’s Library, are the three internationally acclaimed classic novels that comprise what has come to be known as Chinua Achebe’s “African Trilogy.”

Beginning with the best-selling Things Fall Apart—on the heels of its fiftieth anniversary—The African Trilogy captures a society caught between its traditional roots and the demands of a rapidly changing world. Achebe’s most famous novel introduces us to Okonkwo, an important member of the Igbo people, who fails to adjust as his village is colonized by the British. In No Longer at Ease we meet his grandson, Obi Okonkwo, a young man who was sent to a university in England and has returned, only to clash with the ruling elite to which he now believes he belongs. Arrow of God tells the story of Ezuelu, the chief priest of several Nigerian villages, and his battle with Christian missionaries.

In these masterful novels, Achebe brilliantly sets universal tales of personal and moral struggle in the context of the tragic drama of colonization.

About the Author Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria in 1930 and now lives in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where he teaches at Bard College.[He now teaches at Brown University] His work has been translated into fifty languages.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. A 2003 O. Henry Prize winner, Adichie now divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

Comment about the "Africanness" of the trilogy: First, I am very happy that Achebe's publications have been published under the Everyman's Library label, as have those of Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison, Frank O'Connor and others. There are ongoing discussions of the Africanity of African writers and their books, or the repeatable question of the Africanicity of African literature(because, of course, this Africanicity is always either questioned or affirmed, dismissed or defended), but what's of interest to me is the related issue of representation, in other words, how African literature is represented (and presented)by its (African) writers, and then the question of Chinua Achebe, his importance to African literature, how he has been labelled its father. Of course, he had denied this label, as he as well should, because he seems to be arguing, in this rejection, that there are other fathers, and mothers, of African literature. But why even bother denying, the world does not seem to care, and who is the world? Brands like Everyman's Library? Or readers of African literature? The media?

The point is: What exactly does the title The African Trilogy mean? There are several possible answers, which after all has been said and done, don't really matter:

One, maybe Achebe is in this context being perceived as a writer who, like Michener, writes about different continents, countries, etc, and his works can probably be assembled as The Asian Trilogy, The Australian Trilogy, the American Trilogy, etc... In this approach, Achebe has just dropped his African (no specific countries given) Trilogy, and next, we may see the North American Trilogy, etc.

Two, the assemblers (this may not be the right word) of this publication were thinking of the importance of Chinua Achebe to African literature (the father idea, which I have supported elsewhere), and they collected his seminal works, which to them are in all ways African, have been marketed for decades as African, have been studied in schools and universities as (completely) African, so how else can they be anthologized except as African, and indeed they are, inarguably African.

Three, which is similar to two, it was decided (this passive is intentional), for practical reasons, to market a trilogy of this nature as African (with the amazing supposition that every reader would be in awe of seeing a real African trilogy, the grandiose promise of continental discovery, all in one volume). This actually makes sense, because if you put together a book like this, with this much quality, it has to be bought by important institutions--libraries, schools, churches, libraries, individuals...and Everyman's Library is known to deliver (I already have the high-quality Everyman's Library edition of Things Fall Apart, and I would love to be known as one of a few individuals who own an Everyman's Library edition of not one, not two, but three of Chinua Achebe's important novels, minus Anthills of Savanna).

Four, it would be interesting to know why it was not called "An African Trilogy", as opposed to "The African Trilogy", but wait, perhaps the message is: "This is the African trilogy you have been waiting for. It's here!" And given that it's coming from Everyman's Library, one is tempted to celebrate it first and think about the labeling later. It is indeed a landmark publication, and we want more like it, perhaps Ngugi's The African Trilogy, Charles Mungoshi's The African Trilogy, etc.

Five, this may actually be the only African trilogy written as a trilogy, in which case it is indeed The [only] African Trilogy. But Sembene Ousemane,Yvonne Vera, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ferdinand Oyono--they all seem to have produced works that could be collected as trilogies.

Six, after all has been said and done, and at the end of the day, who is complaining? Everyman's Library delivers.


Writerdelic said…
Lol. Great post Emmanuel. I always find your posts to be informative and very useful, they lead me down avenues I would not have otherwise thought to travel.

Popular posts from this blog

Abuja Writers' Forum Call for Submissions

Roland Mhasvi's Flowers

FREEDOM, a poem on South Africa by Afzal Moolla