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Home and Exile (The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Series) 1st Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195135060
ISBN-10: 0195135067
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Editorial Reviews Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

Though it is labeled autobiographical by the publisher, this small book, which originated as three lectures given at Harvard University in December 1998, barely covers the rudiments of Achebe's long and productive life (he is now 70). But the great Nigerian novelist and poet, a master of compression, needs little more than 100 pages to tell the dramatic story of the emergence of a native African literature; in the 1950s, students at English-dominated universities started speaking out against the long European tradition of depicting Africans as "a people of beastly living, without a God, laws, religion," which dates back to Captain John Lok's voyage to West Africa in 1561. "Until the lions produce their own historian," says Achebe, quoting an African proverb of uncertain provenance, "the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter." With characteristic ease and economy, he traces the long African tradition of asserting the worth of the individual, born of Igbo myths that described each community as created separately with its own original ancestor. This notion of individuality, which made the Africans vulnerable to the Atlantic slave traders and to colonial occupation, is the same quality that defined the native African fiction and poetry that emerged in the 1950s, at the time of independence for many African nations. This slim volumeDtold in Achebe's subtle, witty and gracious styleDis one of those small gems of literary and historical analysis that readers will treasure and reread over the years. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Series
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195135067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195135060
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.8 x 4.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,949,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
Long live the proud son of Africa and our respected statesman.
Achebe the honest and truthful dispenser of both sides of the story. Colonial griots (to borrow Achebe's words) such as Elspeth Huxley and other apologists have for too long been left alone to justify the dispossession of precious lands and cultures. Until the proud son of Africa made them eat their own words and exposed them for what they are. Dishonest griots deftly laying the groundwork for self-enrichment at the expense of peace loving and decent Human Beings.
Chinua Achebe as exemplified by his few but precious books writes not to make money but only when he must say something useful. Unlike modern day "authors" who are more about money than substance. I have no doubt Achebe can write profound and moving accounts of African and world issues at the rate of one book a day but he chose only to spend his time teaching.
It is obvious why the Nobel Prize went to Wole Soyinka instead of Chinua Achebe. Achebe refuses to write for a "foreign" audience and does not take his marching orders from anybody. He is his own man. Africans and honest people all over the world have in their own ways given Achebe the best prize in the world.
Continuous interest in his worthwhile classics such as Things Fall Apart,The Man of the People,No longer at Ease,Anthills of the Savannah, Morning Yet on Creation Day,Hopes and Impediments and many others.
Home and Exile may be a small book but has enough three pence (from Achebes "somebody knock me down and have three pence!") to liberate nations and individuals from the grip and stench of colonial and racist apologia masquerading as literature.
Long live Achebe, proud son of Africa and citizen of the world.
To know Achebe (by reading his books) is to know how to be an unassuming and proud Human Being who quitely and calmly states his truth for the benefit of us all.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Snyder on October 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Since the book is already well-summarized above, I'll just give my own reaction.

I've read a number of Achebe's novels and one essay (the excellent critique of Heart of Darkness) and really enjoyed the "backstage" feeling of hearing the author's first person voice - an insightful and kindly voice. For me, the effect of Achebe's strong positions is heightened by the dignified presentation, and of course by the poignant and funny stories from his own life that he uses to illustrate those positions. As compared to one of my other favorite authors, James Baldwin, Achebe's writing includes less calls to action, and more explanation. For instance, even in his sharp critique of Vidiadhar Naipaul's novels, Achebe's first priority is to shine light on the processes that led to Naipul's failures of vision. I think people who have read Achebe's fiction or essays and liked it, or generally care about literature from an indigenous or "Third World" perspective will really enjoy this short text. Definitely worth the cost, and may be available from the library.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The physical brevity of Achebe's "autobiography" truly belies the intrisic wisdom he so effortlessly spews upon his listeners. Mr. Achebe sets out to deconstruct the manifold, post-colonial ills (endemic to the dispossessed of African diasopora) with the assistance of historical literature, creation fables, and his own personal memories. Indeed, a thought provoking manifesto for any fan of the great Achebe; one which will aid the reader to pursue further literature with a new sense of enlightenment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gemma on September 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love Achebe. So I love this collection of three of his essays. His prose is clean and concrete, he is clear and intelligent. Since these are from public lectures he gave at various points, it's easy to read them as they were meant to be engaging. A great little book for anyone interested in learning more about Achebe and postcolonial studies.
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By Tony Montana on September 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This little book from Achebe is great for its exploration of intellectual colonization and its consequences in Africa. The presentation is fluid and elegant.....a piece of art from the master story teller and humanist. I recommend this book to all those who believe that every culture should have a place in the global table and that diversity makes the world a better place. I am a great fan of Achebe and this book has lived up to the high billing I have of him. Kudos to a great man of letters.
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By John A. Ramos on September 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once again the writer describes a story with feelings and keen narration..the reader will not put it must relate to the story and you will find yourself deep in thought,, Achebe is a unreconized icon..I used his "things fall apart" when I was an educator.. and the students loved it and they still recomended it to other students..literatue at is best
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