Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe

Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe

Nigerian Non-Fiction

Source – personal copy

I said I want to try and focus a bit more this year on African and Arabic literature over the next year. I did use cover a lot more when I first started the blog I have always been a fan of the African writer series. Chinua Achebe was the editor of that series in the early days with the first wave of post-colonial African fiction.I had thought I had covered him before on the blog but I haven’t so when I found this the over week. I choose this as my first read as it dealt with African fiction as it was a collection of three essays that he gave as speeches lat on in his life.

My problem with Joyce Cary’s book was not simply his infuriating principal character, Johnson. More importantly, there is a certain undertow of uncharitableness just below the surface on which his narrative moves and from where, at the slightest chance, a contagion of dostaste, hatred and mockery breaks through to poison his tale. Here is a short expcerpt from his description of a fairly innocent party given by Johnson to his friends,”the demonic appearance of the naked dancers, grinning, shrieking, scowling, or with faces whioch seemed entirely dislocated, senseless and unhuman, like twisted bags if lardm or burst bladders” Haven’t I encountered this crowd before? Perhaps, in Heart of Darkness, in the Congo. But Cary is writing about my home Nigeria, isn’t he ?

HIs problems with Cary’s book Mister Johnson.From the first essay My home under Imperial fire

The three essays are interlocking the first deals with his childhood the nation he grew up in the Igbo people and the fact they are distinctive in themselves. Then the fact that when he first went to school and then university. The books he was given to read were all European in nature and there wasn’t many African books and then the one book that deals with his own country by the Anglo-Irish writer Joyce Cary. He said it didn’t cover the country in a real way Cary had served in Nigeria but didn’t portray the country and this is what drove Achebe to write his first novel to give a truer picture. The second essay deals with those early years that he was an editor of the African writer series. When Dylan Thomas put his weight behind one of the early success Palm wine Drunkard. elsewhere he mentions Camara Laye, Mongo Beti and Cheikh Hamidou Kane as among those that first made inroads with eh post-colonial voices of African literature I choose those three as they are covered here. The last essay deals with the modern African literature and post-colonial scene and literature about Africa. He talks about a change in language from Conrad times to modern-day.

The Launching of Heinemann’s African Writer Series was like the umpire’s signal for which African writers had been waiting on the starting line. In one short genration an immense library of new writing had sprung into being from all over the continent and , for the first time in history, Africa’s future genration of readers and writers – youngsters in schools and colleges – begn to read not only David copperfield and other engliush classics That I and my genration had read but also works by their own writers about their own people

The series which he edited for many years in the second essay The Empire fights back !

It was an inspiring collection of essays from a writer who was always passionate about his work and the influence of African fiction. Here he shows how the African continent was misportrayed in English literature here he starts to mention Conrad a subject he often wrote about. The terms he used in the heart of darkness, but as he pointed out it still has changed but not much he mentions V S Naipaul use of Bush in his novel Bend in the river as a small change from Conrad’s day. A slim collection but worth looking out if you are a fan of African literature as it has some interesting points about fiction about Africa and post-colonial African fiction. Have you read this collection?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Jan 04, 2020 @ 05:59:07

    I haven’t read that collection but I have read a few from the African Writers Series and have more on the TBR. If you are interested, there is a list at Goodreads where you can see which ones you’ve read: see https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/73176.African_Writers_Series

    Reply

  2. Trackback: That was the month that was January 2020 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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