Year of First Publication: 1973
One of my motivations for reading this book was that I
undoubtedly enjoyed reading Fragments, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and The Healers all written by Ayi Kwei Armah. First published in 1973, the 317 page edition I reviewed is published by Per Ankh.
‘We are not a people of yesterday. Do they ask how many single seasons we have flowed from our beginnings till now? We shall point them to the proper beginning of their counting. On a clear night when the light of the moon has blighted the ancient woman and her seven children, on such a night tell them to go alone into the world. There, have them count first the one, then the seven, and after the seven all the other stars visible to their eyes alone.’
The above is the first paragraph that begins the novel. One of the surest ways of biting deep into the mind of the narrator is to pay close attention to the beginning chapters of the novel. From the onset, the narrator uses ‘We’ to demonstrate that she is part of the people, that she is not aloof, that she forms part of the whole. In essence, whatever be the outcome of the novel, whether it ends on a sad note or on a blissful one, the narrator is with them.
Again, from the second line of the same paragraph above, the narrator affirms that ‘they’ do not have a clear understanding of ‘we’ and so she points out to ‘them’ to go and ask the ancient woman who is the source of all wisdom and endowed with history to show them the proper counting. The referral to the ancient woman and her seven children brings memories of childhood days. My grandmother would sit us (my sister, the housegirl, my friends and myself) down, often in the night by the fireside and tell us many stories. It was only my grandmother who could tell us nice, interesting and unblemished stories which my father and mother (both of whom are of recent generation) could not tell. So clearly, it is a fact that the ancient woman is endowed with enormous amount of wisdom.
This novel narrates the African experience for the past two thousand seasons of which a thousand seasons were wasted along lost paths and another thousand utilized for finding paths to the right way. There is no specificity to the place of origin of the story. Instead, the story stands for Africa and its people.
The story tells of the coming of the predators who bring with them destruction. The first predators to arrive are the Arabs and then followed by ‘whites’. The predators appeared as beggars yet used their deceitful ways to deceive the people and use religion to gain dominance.
Whereas people like Koranche was greedy fools and turned the people from the way, others like the Wise Isanusi were there to teach the way and never gave up.
All in all, the story gives hope for victory to the people in spite of the oppression, repression and subjugation of the predators, the Europeans and the Arabs. Armah’s Two Thousand Seasons is a book worth reading.