I'm continuing my reading on African themes. I just finished Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, and have begun Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter.
Both of these books were mentioned in Americanah by Amimanda Ngozi Adichie, which is what inspired me to read them.
Things Fall Apart is described as 'mythical' and it is told in that sing-song story-telling sort of way. What I particularly liked about the book was its almost anthropological-like description of life in a remote area in Africa, as yet untouched by colonialism (supposedly, although missionaries do appear before the end of the book). All the different aspects of life studied by anthropologists come into the narrative: hunting, courting, family-life, ceremonies, shamanic training (the all-night ride on the shaman's back through the countryside), war-customs and so on.
The Heart of the Matter is a tougher read for me, because its whole tone and tenor is so overwhelmingly Catholic, and not in a particularly good way, in my opinion. I suppose the 'pity' that the main character Scobie feels, and the hopelessness he shares with other characters, the anti-relationship/pro solitude messages and so on reflect an aspect of Catholicism that I found I couldn't really live with anymore. It made me feel too sad! Perhaps the author is setting us up for something different, but up til this point - when Scobie leaves for Bamba to sort out Pemberton - those Catholic elements are almost cloyingly present for me. It's a good reminder, though, of how much I've changed in the past twenty-five years since moving into a different spiritual stream. I still have ties with Catholicism, and always will have - it was too much a part of my early nurture to be left behind completely - just as I will always have ties with Gnostic Christianity, since that was also a part of my family heritage.