After two centuries of Arab rule, the expansion of European imperialistic ambitions into East Africa at the end of the nineteenth century precipitated a series of conflicts in which Amurath, formerly Commander-in-Chief of the Sultan’s forces, led his Wanda tribesmen to victory over their hated rivals the Sakuyu and then to victory over the Arabs themselves. Proclaiming himself Emperor, for nearly two decades he presided over an uneasy truce between the two tribes while representatives of the major imperial powers maintained legations in hopes of winning some influence in the region. During this time, exploiters, adventurers, opportunists, and missionaries from everywhere immigrated to the country pursuing various schemes, plans, and dreams. As the novel begins, Amurath’s grandson Seth has returned from his studies in England after news of Amurath’s death has been made public, the courtiers no longer able to cover up the Emperor’s absence from view. Seth is anxious to bring the benefits of his education to his country, but he has confused the diverse manifestations of modern thought to which he was exposed at Oxford into an incoherent “philosophy” of isolated buzzwords, trendy concepts, and catchphrases. Preposterously ill-equipped to administer a land torn by ancient tribal blood feuds, conspiring colonial powers, and a polyglot population rife with corruption and indifference, Seth attempts to impress upon Azania a bizarre mixture of social reforms and civic projects which he calls the New Age.
While Seth tries by fiat and decree to rearrange local society, his efforts at control are paralleled by...
(The entire section is 663 words.)