Mr. Chinua Achebe’s latest novel is his first in over twenty years. Set in an unspecified West African country called Kangan a few years after its independence from a colonial power, the book follows the careers of three former schoolmates, each of whom has become a notable in the new nation: one is an important minister in the current military government, another is the editor of the government-controlled newspaper, the third is the military dictator himself. The three soon fall out; the dictator arranges for the editor to be killed, the minister successfully flees the capital but is killed by a drunken soldier in a distant province, the dictator is deposed and killed, and another army officer takes his place.

It is a saddening fact that after extraordinary beginnings many writers of fiction do not sustain the quality of their first works. In thirty years will that be the critical...


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