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Chinua Achebe is Africa's most prominent writer, the author of Things Fall Apart, the best known--and best selling--novel ever to come out of Africa. His fiction and poetry burn with a passionate commitment to political justice, bringing to life not only Africa's troubled encounters with Europe but also the dark side of contemporary African political life. Now, in Home and Exile, Achebe reveals the man behind his powerful work.
Here is an extended exploration of the European impact on African culture, viewed through the most vivid experience available to the author--his own life. It is an extended snapshot of a major writer's childhood, illuminating his roots as an artist. Achebe discusses his English education and the relationship between colonial writers and the European literary tradition. He argues that if colonial writers try to imitate and, indeed, go one better than the Empire, they run the danger of undervaluing their homeland and their own people. Achebe contends that to redress the inequities of global oppression, writers must focus on where they come from, insisting that their value systems are as legitimate as any other. Stories are a real source of power in the world, he concludes, and to imitate the literature of another culture is to give that power away.
Home and Exile is a moving account of an exceptional life. Achebe reveals the inner workings of the human conscience through the predicament of Africa and his own intellectual life. It is a story of the triumph of mind, told in the words of one of this century's most gifted writers. Based on three lectures distinguished Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe gave at Harvard University in 1998, this short but trenchant work does not pretend to be a full-fledged autobiography. Instead, Achebe makes forceful use of his personal experiences to examine the political nature of culture. Born in 1930, the son of a Christian convert, young Achebe received a privileged colonial education and "was entranced by the far-away and long-ago worlds of the stories [in English books like Treasure Island and Ivanhoe], so different from the stories of my home and childhood." Yet he and fellow university students indignantly rejected Anglo-Irishman Joyce Cary's highly praised novel Mister Johnson, which bore no resemblance to their knowledge of Nigerian life. This encounter "call[ed] into question my childhood assumption of the innocence of stories," Achebe comments, using scathing assessments of white Kenyan writer Elspeth Huxley and Indian/Caribbean expatriate V.S. Naipaul to remind us that all literature reflects its creators' beliefs and prejudices. Achebe is not an enemy of Western culture; he merely asserts Africans' right to their own perspective and their own art, as exemplified in works like his groundbreaking 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart. Though blunt, his argument is tempered by humor and a passionate belief in "the curative power of stories." --Wendy Smith
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