Search Sweet Country by Kojo Laing - review by Samuel Reilly

Samuel Reilly

Let Them Eat Corned Beef

Search Sweet Country

By

Penguin Modern Classics 368pp £10.99 order from our bookshop
 

General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, president of Ghana from 1972 to 1978, is remembered particularly for his slogans. The modernising initiatives he oversaw – driving on the right, national ‘self-reliance’ in agriculture – were given names that smack at once of the ad man’s office and the barracks: Operation Keep Right, Operation Feed Yourself. As the sociologist Professor Sackey notes with irony towards the end of Search Sweet Country – the Kumasi-born writer Kojo Laing’s debut novel, published in 1986 and now reissued by Penguin – Acheampong renamed a roundabout in central Accra ‘Redemption Circle’. ‘The poor circle is still going round in circles,’ says Sackey, ‘trying to find out how and what it is supposed to redeem!’

Perhaps the only thing that Laing’s dizzying depiction of Accra in the mid-1970s makes clear is that redemption does not move in straight lines. From bustling markets to ‘churches, corn-mills, latrines, bars and potholes’, the novel follows a vast, vivid cast of professors and drunks, witches and fisherwomen,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter