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Wole Soyinka: Season of Anomy

This is Soyinka’s telling of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice in a Nigerian context, particularly the chaos in 1966 which led to the Biafra War. (Anomy means the abandonment of moral and social standards, which clearly happens here.) Ofeyi, the Orpheus character, is an advertising genius and has produced a brilliant campaign to sell cocoa products for the Cocoa Corporation. In particular, he has been able to devise a host of products of dubious quality to sell domestically. His girlfriend, Iriyise – the Eurydice character – has been used as a model on the posters to sell these products. However, he discovers the village of Aiyéró, where things are done differently. The people there get on with their work in a community spirit, working together, not seeking personal enrichment. Even those that left came back and brought back what they had earned. Ofeyi sees this and changes his ways. Unfortunately, the Cartel that controls the country does not like this. With the message being spread, the Cartel, with the support of the government and authorities, decides to repress this approach and does so with bloody and brutal violence.

Much of the book is taken up with a graphic description of how the Cartel and its gorillas brutally repress the people – burning down churches, savagely slaughtering innocent people, including women and children, and generally protecting their interests. Ofeyi, with his friend the band leader, Zaccheus, makes his journey round hell, trying to find help and, of course, trying to find Iriyise, who has been seized by the thugs, though maybe not killed. Soyinka spares us nothing. His descriptions of the hell that takes place are superb but harrowing and, of course, have a profound effect on Ofeyi and Zaccheus. Eventually, of course, they do find Iriyise but, as the legend tells us, he cannot take her back. For those that do not know about the introduction to the Biafra War, this book will tell them in a way only Soyinka could, what it was like.

Publishing history

First published 1973 by Rex Collings