FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grad School Discussion Notes and Summary: Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah

BONUS LINK:  My entire (so far) grad school notes collection can be found here. 
All Things Achebe--The Complete Notes Collection

Anthills of the Savannah Discussion Notes and Summary 
DISCLAIMER:  These are my notes that I created from reading the novel and from classroom discussion.  Generally speaking, the chapter by chapter summaries are my own, however, the other parts of the posts are what I hope are an amelioration of the classroom discussion.

Discussion Points/Observations:
- The role of women; they are still representing society. 
- Parallel to Achebe’s role as minister of info for Biafra
- Rural and urban.  From the 60’s to 80’s, the state has pulled back from trying to connect to the urban areas. 
Achebe’s central characters always die.  Their struggle is more important than their life—they inspire people. 
- Failure of ruling class to connect to the majority (which is the poor)—All there is is struggle—there’s no solution. 
- This is the first novel where there aren’t any conflicts between father and sons—no generational conflict like his other novels. 
- In this novel, the rural comes to the city in contrast to previous novels where it’s the opposite.
- Sam motivated by fear and translates this fear to his treatment of his cabinet—effectively immobilizing them.  And he seeks to mimic the elderly state heads that he sees as the OAU. 
- Irony that Achebe writes a novel about the disconnect between the elite and the poor masses at such a level that it is not accessible by those same masses because of the higher intellectual level at which it is written. 
- Beatrice to Elewa to Agatha: bridges of connection
- Older Abazonian man’s speech is a throwback to Achebe’s prior novels (and a breath of fresh air).  This man is wise but has no power.  The importance of being seen to have fought, but more important for there to be a record of it.   Wallace Steven’s quote is applicable here: “The Solider is poor without the poet’s lines.” 
- Naming ceremony as a birth of nationalism, where everyone is present (from all aspect of society) and bonding over a common cultural heritage but torquing it to reflect a new reality.  Showing that all the value systems can coexist—whereas peers couldn’t. Abdul is present, supposed to be spying on them, but has instead joined them.   So you have all slices of society present.
- All the books have an older character (the uncle here) that acknowledges that the times are changing and everyone has to adapt.
- Is Luxurious a character?  What does the bus represent?
- Fragility of military regime.  When do they ‘cross the line?’  For Ikem, it’s when they arrest the elder.  But it’s the students’ reaction to the regicide article in the Gazette that really sparks the movement. 

Link for further study:
"Nations were fostered as much by structures as by laws and revolutions. These structures where they exist now are the pride of their nations. But everyone forgets that they were not erected by democratically-elected Prime Ministers but very frequently by rather unattractive, bloodthirsty medieval tyrants. The cathedrals of Europe, the Taj Mahal of India, the pyramids of Egypt and the stone towers of Zimbabwe were all raised on the backs of serfs, starving peasants and slaves. Our present rulers in Africa are in every sense late-flowering medieval monarchs, even the Marxists among them. Do you remember Mazrui calling Nkrumah a Stalinist Czar? Perhaps our leaders have to be that way. Perhaps they may even need to be that way."
Literary Criticism:
Interesting Thesis on the role of Pidgin in Achebe’s novels:

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