Africa / Quotes

From Anthills of the Savannah …

~ One of my “favourite” excerpts from Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe. Just had to share this, although it’s long.

The fierce waging of the war itself is important; and the telling of the story afterwards – each is important in its own way. I tell you there is not one of them we could do without. But if you ask me which of them takes the eagle-feather, I will say boldly: the story… So why do I say that the story is chief among his fellows? The same reason I think that our people will give the name Nkolika to their daughters – Recalling-Is-Greatest. Why? Because it is only the story that can continue beyond the war and the warrior. It is the story that outlives the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters. It is the story, not the others, that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man know his escort? No neither do we the story; rather it is the story that owns us and directs us. It is the thing that makes us different from cattle; it is the mark on the face that sets one people apart from their neighbours. So the arrogant fool who sits astride the story as though it were a bowl of foo-foo set before him by his wife understands little about the world. The story will roll him into a ball, dip him in the soup and swallow him first. I tell you he is like the puppy who swings himself around and farts into a blazing fire with the aim to put it out. Can he? No, the story is everlasting … Like fire, when it is not blazing it is smouldering under its own ashes or sleeping and resting inside its flint-house.

When we are young and without experience, we all imagine that the story of the land is easy, that every one of us can get up and tell it. But that is not so. True, we all have our little scraps of tale bubbling in us. But what we tell is like the middle of  amighty boa which a foolish forester mistakes for a tree trunk and settles upon to take his snuff … Yes, we lay into our little tale with wild eyes and a vigorous tongue. Then, one day Agwu comes along and knocks it out of our mouth and our jaw out of shape for our audacity and hands over the story to a man of his choice…



One thought on “From Anthills of the Savannah …

  1. Humans are self-aware animals. And as soon as you are self-aware, you ask: “Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my history?” Of course, you can’t find an answer independent of your family, group, tribe. And if you don’t find an answer, how can you put one foot in front of another, how can you continue your life? So it is that all peoples devise stories about themselves: creation myths, myths of origin.
    When a bigger, bolder story comes along and shatters ours, we’re left with nothing. This is what I see Achebe saying here…. Bruce Reynolds


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