on 26 July 2008
This is a great book and a perfect introduction to the writing of Achebe if you are unaccustomed to him. It is not written too simply (something I have been known to criticise the writer for), and is full of wit and has an almost allegorical sub-text. Although set in the 1960s, the beauty of this book (paradoxically)is that it is virtually timeless insofar as the notion/persona of the 'big man' (personified here as Chief Nanga) and the corruption and havoc that these types wreak on Africa is still sadly with us today. However without ruining the plot, what I particularly like is that it shows what can happen when these people are confronted. Highly recommended.
on 7 March 2009
Growing up in Nigeria, I had to read Chinua Achebe's books as part of the literature curriculum. At the time, I found his works to be mildly interesting; I did not think that they were arresting enough to merit further study. How wrong I was!
A Man of the People novel is set in Nigeria in the 1960's. The country had just gained independence from Great Britain, and elected its first post-colonial government, which is run by the proverbial `Big Men'. One of such `Big Men' is Chief the Honourable M. A. Nanga. Chief Nanga is not just any ordinary government hack; he is a charismatic, gifted politician who has a way with the people - and especially with the ladies. He is part of an entrenched, corrupt coterie that enrich themselves while in office, blatantly rig elections and silence opposition without recourse to law. Yet, Chief Nanga is loved by his constituents for his largesse, as he doles out the spoils of office to `his people'.
Enter Odili Samalu, a young well-educated, idealist. Odili, a former pupil of Chief Nanga's, is favoured by the Chief. Nanga invites Odili to the big city, where Odili spends time in Nanga's sumptuous home, is introduced into high society and generally has a jolly good time. Yes, Odili our austere idealist enjoys the high life that his relationship with Nanga offers him. However, Odili and Nanga quarrel over a woman and Odili determines to run against Nanga in the upcoming elections.
Achebe uses the ensuing David and Goliath contest to satirise the crass corruption of Nigeria's ruling elite. Whether using private militias to silence (or kill) political opponents or awarding inflated government contracts to themselves, Nigeria's government, personified in Chief Nanga, give corruption a new meaning, with the acquiescence of the people.
Achebe takes the art of storytelling to its acme; he kept me so captivated that I read the whole book in one night. I can think of many words to describe A Man of the people: sublime, witty, irreverent and insightful. A Man of the People is not just an indictment of Nigeria's post-independence elite; it is the story of a nation's slide into chaos.
The tone of the book is not all dark. Odili does beat Chief Nanga in the end - though not at the ballot box (I shall not spoil it for the reader). Perhaps, the book's bitter-sweet ending is a sign that Achebe has not lost all hope in Nigeria.
There are many reasons why Chinua Achebe ranks alongside Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer as one of the greatest - if not the best - African writers of the 20th century. A Man of the People is a clear demonstration of Achebe's depth, wit, eye for detail and the ability to tell an engaging story using the simplest of words. This book is much more than history. It is an African story told by Africa's most gifted writer. Read this one for the sheer delight that it can stir up in you; A Man of the People deserves my 5 stars.
on 14 June 2006
Achebe's `AMOTP' is a side-swipe at careerist politicians. It contrasts M.A. Nanga, a populist politician, with the political aspirations of Odili, a former protégé of Nanga's who attempts to get involved in politics without getting involved in the financial and sexual corruption he witnesses in other politicians, and while maintaining the pure ideology he set out to espouse. Nanga is something of a local hero in Odili's home town, but the more Odili sees of Nanga's lifestyle, the more he becomes disillusioned with the man he once idolised. However, Odili also desires the consumer goods and beautiful women that Nanga's power attracts, and the ease with which they are available proves difficult to resist. By the end, Odili has been drawn into life as a careerist politician, and the contrast between himself and Nanga isn't as great as he would have liked.
`AMOTP' is a timeless tale concerning the uses and abuses of democracy, and what can happen to the `men of the people' elected to represent us. Although the story is set in Africa, it is just as relevant to other cultures. The sexual and financial shenanigans of our own politicians are reflected in Nanga's behaviour, and the gradual erosion of Odili's idealism is also all too familiar. Achebe tells his story with wit and an easy writing style that made `AMOTP' a pleasure to read. An excellent political satire, and well worth reading.
on 30 January 2000
"A Man of the People" is an excellent book. It is set in the 1960s, just after Nigeria had been granted independence from Britain.
It follows the young, idealistic Mr Odili, a former student of Chief Nanga, MA, who has become a leading politician under a brutal Nigerian regime. Achebe's novel follows Odili as he uncovers corruption and attempts to take on his former master, Nanga, by forming his own party and challenging for a place in government.
"A Man of the People" is a very witty book, full of clever swipes at political systems (which can be related not just to African but the whole world) and is very intelligently written. Most of all, the ending will probably stay with the reader for a very long time.
on 9 December 2003
This book has some of the most clear, and refined writing I have ever read in the pages of a novel. Very descriptive, with a firm grasp of African society. This is a very political book, and while it doesn't have the rough-and-tumble of an action novel, or even a substantial climax, it is riddled with injustices, pain, humour, and enough sexual innenuendos to make it a worthwhile read.
on 28 February 2012
I have bought this again because it is one of those book's you lend out and never get back, but I must have a copy on my shelf for re-reading. If you are seeking an extraordinary read, filled to the brim with culture, beautifully written, if you are seeking something wildly off the beaten track, that oozes longevity from beginning to end, if you aspire to write and wish to learn from a master, if you have the highest of literary tastes and standards, really, Chinua Achebe is The Man, and this is one of my favourite books to have come from his genius pen. Simply brilliant.
on 28 August 2013
Many years ago I had a wonderfully eccentric tutor who had done field world among the Tiv people of northern Nigeria. He always spoke of Africa and its myriad languages and cultures with great affection and understanding. It was a real and lasting pleasure to re-read this work prior to a trip to Africa. Chinua Achebe who died earlier this year is rightly applauded as one of the modern greats of Nigeria. No one will be disappointed by reading this work.
on 12 June 2013
To have any chance of Nigeria becoming a better governed Country the leaders have to show more respect for the basic concept of Governing for the betterment of the people as not as a way to line their own pockets
on 7 June 2015
Funny yet alarming well told story. As expected - almost prophetic in how accurate the series of events is.
If you want to understand Nigerian politics, this is a good place to start.
on 13 April 2013
Having read an article about Chinua Achebe's life I wanted to read some of the work he had written and found this to be a great start and introduction to the author