The best books on political resistance

Odafe Atogun Author Of Taduno's Song
By Odafe Atogun

The Books I Picked & Why

The Trial

By Franz Kafka

Book cover of The Trial

Why this book?

I think this book aptly portrays the power of the state to control its people and the sinister ways in which this power can be put to use in the face of resistance. The story attests to the perpetual struggle between the ruled and the ruler. And much as Josef K’s gruesome murder, in the end, is symbolic of the ruthlessness of the state, his last words, “Like a dog!”, spoken in defiance, could well be meant to inspire the victims of political oppression never to surrender even in the face of death.


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Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

By Nelson Mandela

Book cover of Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Why this book?

For me, this book gives hope to every struggle because it shows that, in the end, it is possible for the oppressed to outlive the oppressor. The story chronicles the early life of Nelson Mandela and the 27 years he spent in prison on Robben Island under the apartheid regime of South Africa. While he would later rise to become president, his prison experience shows the resilience of a man whose spirit remained unbroken under one of the most oppressive regimes ever. Mandela teaches us that the struggle against injustice and oppression must be unrelenting until total freedom is attained.


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Cry, the Beloved Country

By Alan Paton

Book cover of Cry, the Beloved Country

Why this book?

This book is protest literature that highlights the unjust social and political structures in our world, as had existed in apartheid South Africa. It reminds us of the existing dangers so long as such structures remain. And it is also a warning that much as there are punishments for crimes committed by the individual, as in the case of Absalom Kumalo, there also are unpleasant consequences for failure of leadership.


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Animal Farm

By George Orwell

Book cover of Animal Farm

Why this book?

I think this book portrays the true state of human society today and is arguably the most important protest literature of the last century. Animal Farm is the allegorical story of the rebellion staged by a group of farm animals against their human farmer in their quest for a free, fair, and just society. “All animals are equal”, the most important of their seven commandments of animalism, promotes fairness. But as the years passed, the rebellion is gradually betrayed and the animals find themselves living in a state as bad as it was before. In a card game celebrating a new alliance between the animals and the farmers, both sides cheated, a fight ensues, creating such chaos that makes it impossible to distinguish between man and animal, an allusion to the state of any society that fails to uphold the principle of fairness.      


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The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka

By Wole Soyinka

Book cover of The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka

Why this book?

I think this book is very important because Soyinka shows that the right of the people to protest cannot be restricted by walls or chains. That the oppressor is totally helpless against the will of the people, as also shown in Taduno’s Song by the protagonist Taduno and Kongi, a character modelled on Soyinka. Imprisoned without trial by the authorities at the start of the Nigerian civil war, Wole Soyinka’s prison notes provide records of the twenty 27 months he spent in solitary confinement, the very basis of the words that would cement his place as a prisoner of conscience and give rise to a body of work that would illuminate the world.


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