“Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” by Wole Soyinka (Pantheon)
With “Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka has created an exceedingly unique tale, one that feels as if it has a tone and genre all its own.
In this gruesome crime thriller meets political and religious satire, high-ranking leaders in a fictionalized Nigeria are part of a vast underground business selling human body parts, which are believed to hold supernatural qualities. Surgeon Kighare Menka is horrified when he is invited to join this grisly network. While there are many subplots, the story largely follows Menka as he clings desperately to his own morality while navigating a world filled with seemingly endless horrors and violence.
For those willing to work to untangle the dense language and complex storylines that weave their way through the novel, "Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth" could very well be considered a great novel. It’s sharp commentary on how corruption can infect a nation is powerful, and it is rich with humor, irony, and plot twists. Nevertheless, the style and language make it exceedingly difficult to grasp. It is easy to get lost in the multitude of characters and crisscrossing narratives. For those willing to ride the wave and who are seeking a story that challenges them, it could make a great choice. However, it isn’t right for those looking for a light or easily digestible read.
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