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A superb new work from the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart (1959), his first novel in over 20 years. In the depleted, post-colonial West African state of Kengan, a military coup ushers a promising young officer into the role of president. Lucky, bright, but terminally afraid of a counterinsurrection, the President, a.k.a. His Excellency, fails in a referendum bid to install himself as President for Life. As his paranoia gradually chokes all remnants of due process, the slide to tyranny is observed through three key witnesses: Chris, the Commissioner of Information; Ikem, poet and editor of the National Gazette; and Beatrice, a senior civil servant. Cabinet meetings have been reduced to ritualistic gestures of subservience to the President, who lords it over his Ministers with the malicious glee of a chiding schoolmaster, but Chris at first can't summon the courage to resign his post. He does attempt, however, to warn Ikem that a storm is brewing, but to no avail: Ikem continues to caricature the President in National Gazette editorials, and His Excellency finds the right pretext to suspend his duties as editor when Ikem is seen drinking with delegates from a supposedly seditious province. Having no way of knowing just how out of control the President's anxiety has become, Ikem delivers a speech to a group of students--and the President raises the stakes by having the ex-editor arrested and ""fatally wounded in a scuffle."" Chris, sensing he's next in line, escapes through a chain of safe houses to a rural province, where he learns that a new coup has toppled His Excellency's regime. In a final ironic twist, Chris is murdered during celebrations of the President's fall before he has a chance to size up the threat of this new coup's emerging star. Tough, tight-lipped, and shrewd, this one reestablishes Achebe's place as a leading voice in African literature.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1987
ISBN: 0385260458
Publisher: Doubleday