The book ARROW OF GOD is set in six villages of Nigeria in the time of the white government. These Villages have many customs, rituals, festivals, various ceremonies and above many beliefs that are all connected to one god called Ulu. Actually these villages were initially seven though due to disobedience and revoking of customs one village was disowned by the occupants. Besides the celebrations and customs these villages have civil wars among themselves –land disputes, issues of leadership and power. A few beliefs and customs are under threat and change when the white government inflicts its indirect rule onto the six villages. Ezeulu a chief priest of the six villages has rivals in the tribes, in the white government and in his own family. Irrespective of the whole shebang he is prepared to lead his people. The book takes its title “Arrow of God’ from a state of affairs the chief priest, Ezeulu finds himself in being merely an Arrow in a bow of god in Chapter Sixteen.
This is typically African literature so rich with African proverbs, sayings, names, customs and norms commonly practiced in a number of African countries. In many conversations held by the characters in the book, frequently speak in proverbs with an African touch, their engagement in rituals, their actions on particular days and ceremonies.
The cover of the book being reviewed here shows a snake, a python actually in an enclosed box. In the six villages python snakes are a very important and no occupant in any of the village is supposed to kill or hurt the python otherwise the wrath of the gods will be upon the entire village(s). I don’t want to spoil for anyone anymore.
In the first 5 consecutive chapters, the author simultaneously tells the readers about two societies –the six villages too its activities and the white government too its administration; one chapter is fixed in the Villages, the next chapter is totally about a white government, the next chapter is in the villages. The sequence goes on till chapter 6 where it all becomes one society at once.
This is kind of book you find yourself reading again and again, because of its deep African literature, insights, proverbs and a well-studied flow of the story from event non-stop to another, You are dissolved into the words and your imaginations are on the edge at every chapter. Though some chapters are scary especially those set in the night; the rituals done in the night and spirit of the dark. Still this is the kind of the book that could be read in a group or a book club, since of the most of the events deserve to be discussed and appreciated as jotted down by the author.
The author of the book is the late Chinua Achebe –also author of Things Fall Apart, a work that in part led to his being called the “patriarch of the African novel.” His work will always be remembered for generations to generations.
At the end of the book the publishers of the book mentions one important aspect that personally I took time to believe. They declare “The book you have been reading is a part of Heinemann’s long-established series of African fiction” I still can’t believe this book is a fiction, I think it was inspired by true events in the time of the white government in Nigeria.
I will leave with a saying from the book: ‘A man does not speak a lie to his son’