1958 novel by Chinua Achebe which describes the first meeting of an African tribe with colonial white men.

It's a thin book, filled with the sort of noble savage wisdom conquered people like to dole out. On that political level, I've always thought the book fails. On every other level, plot, characters, literary devices -- I love this book.

Achebe, who writes in French (I think), is a genius craftsman with language. The only other writer of story and prose that translates so well is Milan Kundera. Both grab at the reader in any language, gently inundating the him or her with soft beautiful text strings that hide hard truths.

The kola nut is prominently features througout the novel. Its demise from a religous symbol to a cultivated cash crop is a beautiful metaphor that runs through the book.

A particularly telling scene from the book describes the meeting between a war chief and a colonial explorer. The war chief regales the explorer with tales of the Great War his people had fought with a neighboring village. The chief uses 24 kola nuts to count the twelve brave men from each village that had died before the suffering on each side was so great that the fighting stopped.

The explorer than attempts to explain the 30 Years War where a million men died. The chief is at first unimpressed. "How many is a million," he asks. When the explorer dumps a bag of rice on the ground in an attempt to show a million, the chief is at first disbelieving and then horrified.

The title is taken from a William Butler Yeats poem The Second Coming. Somebody add more please:)