• Welcome to The National Midday Sun. Please login or sign up.
June 20, 2019, 06:09:42 am

In the shadow of a saint

Started by Ashley, November 05, 2002, 19:23:29 pm

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Ashley

This book was chosen by Ron who I think was already either reading it, or had finished it. I knew nothing about the book or it's author or the subject.

I really enjoyed reading this book, it is (in very general terms) about the struggle of locals against the military dictators in Government and their corporate financiers (predominately Shell), but it is also the story of a son who  re-discovers his father (also called Ken) and comes to terms with his feelings about their previously unsccessful relationship.

I was reasonably familiar with the current and recent issues of Nigeria, and having done West Africa  for A level Geography
I was pretty sure I would have the basics, but of course I was woefully unaware of the reality. I have split the book into it's 3 areas - the history of the country and it's ethnic make up, which of course is exactly what causes all of the problems; the relationship between Ken abd his father who is leading a struggle against Nigeria's military leaders and Shell; and the final understanding and peace between a son and his father who was taken from him and executed before their relationship ever flowered.

Nigeria is a huge country with enormous wealth in it's natural resources. At school for A level (1979 - 1981) all I remember is Kano, Lagos and Groundnuts / Yams which were seen to be the big cash crops. Nigeria actually has possibly the worlds 3rd richest oil field, and despite earning $600bn from oil in the past 40 years, the country has debts of $40bn. This should be the richest African nation, but it's people are among the poorest. Military Juntas & Oil deposits of this size do not make for a happy ending anywhere, just look at Iraq!

So we find Ken's father in Nigeria eminating from one of the three main tribes that make up the population. Nigeria, unfortunaltely, was created by the British (who else) by bringing together two historically diverse tracts of land, and bringing together three historically different tribes. Ken's father came from the smallest tribe, but his tribe also came from the area of the country with all of the oil - you get the picture? We don't get (unfortunately) the background to how he achived it, but Ken's father became a very wealthy and influential man in Nigeria, so wealthy, thet he sent his sons to England for a Public School education (one of his sons went to Eton, but died there in a freak sports accident), also because of his wealth and position, Ken's father became the spokesman for the tribes in the region.

His father is pissed at how the resources are squandered and the people of the area ignored (obviously the largest tribe gets all the plum jobs don't you know) so through books and the radio etc. becomes more & more active aginst this waste of his regions and Nigeria's wealth. Ken of course, is tucked up in the Home Counties getting the best education money can buy, and ignores his father. He ignores him because his Father wants Ken to get an education and return to Nigeria & educate the villages, Ken of course is in London and enjoying his independance from a nagging dad.

Ken has no intention of going back to Nigeria to be a 'missionary' he is enjoying the western lifestyle, loving the freedom and wants to be a journalist. Ken's dad knows this and every time the two meet in London ot Port Harcourt in Nigeria there is huge tension and bitter rows.

Kens dad however, is soon in big shit! Too many vocals in the wrong places about the wrong subjects, too many enemies, and he knows it, but keeps on hitting hard at the regime & Shell, even going as far as organising rallies and marches against hem. To cut a long story short, members of his own protest group are murdered and Kens father get the blame. He and his alledged conspirators are tried & executed by a kangaroo court.

Until this point, there is interest by the world at large, but very little action, come his death, and the balloon goes up, but too little too late. Our own dear Mr Major & Mandela come out of it pretty badly, only the Canadian PM seems to take an interest (but who takes any notice of Canada eh?).

After his fathers death, Ken is lost, and feels quite alone. He decides to take an interest in his fathers activities to try to understand what his dad was about, and how he fitted into his fathers thoughts. He is trying to find out who Ken Wiwa is, and why he is as he is.

The upshot is that Ken does find peace with himself, he reads everything his father published or wrote, he talks to family and tribe members and eventually can relate to the man he refused to buckle to for his entire life. He disvovers he is actually turning into a version of his father.

So what of the book?

I was taken aback at the facts & figures of Nigerias wealth of resources. This is a country with few roads, yet it is enormous. It is obvious the resources are being squandered, but do we care, do I care? If any oil company ruined the countryside in Western Europe getting oil out & distributed they would not get away with it, yet in the Third World.....  Corporate murder? So plenty of thought provoking stuff.

I felt that we didn't really learn enough about Ken's father, his wealth was suggested at, as were his political connections, yet at no point were we told how he came to be so wealthy & powerful from so humble a background. Yes he has shops, but what else? Also, he was no saint, as Ken accepts, but we have a very one dimensional view of his dad that could & should have been broader.

The point of the book (apart of drawing attention the the state in Nigeria) is the fact that the only true respectful relationship between father & son came about after one of them died. They could not communicate when together, and each was serving their own agenda irrespective of the others wishes.

I have two sons, and this book reminds me not to take them for granted, ever. Ken's father loved him, but he was trying to live & determine his life for him - it just can't be done without causing huge friction and problems. It took this man 3 years after his fathers death to come to terms with his legacy and the painful memories of what had passed between them. And what did he find, he found that he loved his father after all, and his father loved him, both had been too stubborn to get on with their own lives & give one another some space.

Some nice bits in this book as well, like when Ken was being taught history in England and had to watch Zulu on video whilst being taught how Blacks were supressed to libe the 'correct' way after colonialisation.

A very good book, and more to it that I have alluded to above.

Definitely worth getting and reading, in fact I'll post & lend it to any of you that wants to borrow it.

Over to you Ron.


Mark_Williams

You sure it's not about Simon Templar  ;D

Ashley

In the shadow of Roger Moore's wiggie?  :D

Now feck off this is serious.  ::)

Mark_Williams


Ron

Quote
Over to you Ron.

Thanks Ashley. I read a review of the book somewhere in 2001 and subsequently put in on my want-list. My wife bought it for me as a Christmas gift last year.

My interest was primarily drawn by the African story of the book and a vague memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa. My knowledge of Africa is very basic, so learning about Nigeria was of interest to me too.

First of all, I thought it was a great book. Well written, although sometimes a bit trying too hard to write beautifully. But that's only a minor comment. The book reads very pleasantly.

I don't want to copy what Ashley already told, because it is quite a nice summary of the book.
Personally, I was rather shocked at the political and financial situation of Nigeria. I think this country clearly shows what is the major problem of Africa. The book does give quite some insight in that.

Equally shocking was the way the Commonwealth leaders reacted to the trials of the father. Indeed, you get a completely different image of mr. Major and mr. Mandela. This shows to me that politicians consider themselves far, far more important than any human life.

I really liked the final part of the book, where son Ken was visiting children of other activists who have been killed while protesting their government (Nathi Biko and Aung San Suu Kyi). It helps Ken getting to grips with the death of his father and it provides us, the readers, with a bit more insight in the world of activists around the globe.

All in all, the book surpassed my expectations and I too highly recommend it to anyone.

On a side note, what I really like in this book club thread is that Ashley has read a book which he maybe would never have picked up and liked reading it. That's what this is all about, right mr. Moderator?
Dat geluk verdwijnt voor geld


Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Madison Square Garden, Wembley Arena, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy.

Crewe

Reg

So how about Ash suggests the next book then as he was the first to bite the bullet so to speak?
Standing in the shadows, hiding from the light
Reach out in the darkness, and hold on for your life
All the fear of the future, all the emptiness inside
When the moment of truth arrives, hey, you can run but you can't hide

Ron

QuoteSo how about Ash suggests the next book then as he was the first to bite the bullet so to speak?

Fine by me..
Dat geluk verdwijnt voor geld


Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Madison Square Garden, Wembley Arena, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy.

Crewe

Ashley

Well it would seem to me daft not to do a Robert Rankin book next as so many of us have recently bought his work through the recommendation of TAFKAMW.

How about we start with volume 1 - The Antipope to be reviewed by say 30 November. This way we get to review someone elses book over Christmas.

Ashley

Quote


On a side note, what I really like in this book club thread is that Ashley has read a book which he maybe would never have picked up and liked reading it. That's what this is all about, right mr. Moderator?

Yes Ron, it is unlikely that I would have come across (saucy) this book without your recommendation. I have started a book by John Pilger that opens several cans of worms in countries like Nigeria, but I was ignorant of this issue until this book came to me.

I also feel I should get the Biko book by Wood which is mentioned.

I noticed some familiar names in the 'thank you' section - George Aligiah of the BBC amongst them!

Well done Ron.

When it comes back to my turn (not this next one) I shall think long & hard for a good one to compliment your choice.

Perhaps 100 years of Newcastle United.

Or

Success in Europe in 2002 - the Alan Shearer story!



Ron

I think about getting the Biko book as well. The quote in the book sounds soo familiar to the Peter Gabriel song.

And hey, these last two suggestions are not fair! Books should consist of more than a dozen pages...  ;)
Dat geluk verdwijnt voor geld


Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Madison Square Garden, Wembley Arena, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy.

Crewe

Ron

QuoteWell it would seem to me daft not to do a Robert Rankin book next as so many of us have recently bought his work through the recommendation of TAFKAMW.

How about we start with volume 1 - The Antipope to be reviewed by say 30 November. This way we get to review someone elses book over Christmas.

I'll order the book this week and hopefully have it read before November 30.
Dat geluk verdwijnt voor geld


Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy, Madison Square Garden, Wembley Arena, Ahoy, Ahoy, Ahoy.

Crewe

Mark_Williams

QuoteWell it would seem to me daft not to do a Robert Rankin book next as so many of us have recently bought his work through the recommendation of TAFKAMW.

How about we start with volume 1 - The Antipope to be reviewed by say 30 November. This way we get to review someone elses book over Christmas.

Robert Rankin rules  - I am addicted to his silliness  :D