Slice Of Life: No longer at ease

Loyiso Langeni (Alyssa Rivas, M&G)

Loyiso Langeni (Alyssa Rivas, M&G)

I used to sell books part-time. Because of my love of reading, I decided to focus on my bookshop full-time.

Growing up, we read Afrikaans and English novels in our syllabus. Most African literature was banned.

When I went to the University of Cape Town in 1998, they had a huge library with African books. It had the likes of Chinua Achebe — his book No Longer At Ease was the first I read.

I had to read it a number of times to be honest. It’s intriguing: you have this character who is Nigerian. He gets a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom and his community bands together to send him abroad.

When he returns to Nigeria, he has high aspirations of being an upstanding civil servant. He won’t be like the corrupt ones. He was very principled, but unfortunately, as time went by, he could not afford the standard of living in Nigeria. There were expectations from his family and villagers from his home that he should live a certain way. He bought an expensive car that he could not afford to meet their expectations. It led to his downfall.

I have a lot of social pressure. That book reminded me of it. In black communities, you don’t only look after your family. From the money you get, you need to pay a monthly allowance for extended family because of the high unemployment rate. I can relate to the book, but the question is how do you react under pressure.

I’m also expected to maintain an image as a professional, but at the same time we have to send money to family.

This book is a very practical interpretation of what is happening. It was written in the 1960s. 

— Loyiso Langeni (36), owner of African literature bookshop Book Circle Capital, as told to Ra’eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

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