Chronicles From The Land Of The Happiest People On Earth | Wole Soyinka

Books | Review

fiction | africa | political | satire | nobel prize

First published 2020

This is a novel that spans genres and it is hard to describe exactly what it is: part murder mystery, part political satire, part conspiracy story. Four young men who  studied together, have created a brand known as Brand of the Land. They have all studied abroad and have returned home to Nigeria with the idealistic belief that they can use their new skills to make their country a better place. Over time, the four lose touch, but surgeon, Kighare Menka and the engineer, Duyole Pitan-Payne remain fast friends - almost brothers.

Duyole has been asked to join the UN in New York and is in the process of leaving Lagos. He has been disappointed by successive governments and their corruption and has all but given up hope of changing Nigeria for the better. Kighare is been approached by some shady characters who have ask him to visit their "market". He is horrified to learn that it is a market where with human body parts are openly bought and sold by people who believe in their magical and healing powers. The shady characters want Kighare to supply them with more body parts from his work as a surgeon at a hospital where he specialises in helping victims of Boko Haram.

Duyole and  Kighare represent one side of a fractured society; they try to expose the corruption and criminality that is rife in Nigeria. On the other side of the divide are Papa Davina and Sir Goddie. Papa Davina is a religious leader who sells his spirituality, encompassing traditions from Christianity, Islam and other tribal beliefs. Sir Goddie is the overly ambitious head of state and leader of the People On The Move Party (POMP). The two are in cahoots together, using Papa Davina's spiritual ministry, Ekumenika, as a front for the numerous sordid and monstrous practices they carry out to make money and gain power.

This is a novel that deal swith metaphor on every page. The characters of Papa Davina and Sir Goddie represent the nature of extreme corruption and power structures in Nigeria. Duyole and Kighare are the foreign-educated citizens who wish to come back and make their country great again. Unfortunately, they are often deeply disappointed. 

My Verdict: Soyinka is a literary giant and the godfather of Nigerian Literature. The first African writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, this is only his third novel. It's an angry book, and Soyinka uses it to voice his frustrations and hurt, using his vast vocabulary and his deep understanding of people and events. This is a writer who has reached the end of his tether. It goes beyond satire and irony, to something darker and very real. It's definitely not an easy book to read, but it is a necessary one.

Rating Award - 4.5/5

Posted 13.09.2022

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