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The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays Hardcover – October 6, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“African literature is incomplete and unthinkable without the works of Chinua Achebe. For passion, intellect, and crystalline prose, he is unsurpassed.”
—Toni Morrison

“An eclectic and thorough view of Achebe in his longtime roles as writer, father, and teacher. [Written] with the same generosity and humility that have always distinguished his work. . . . [Achebe] strives to act and to write with empathy and nuance rather than with fanaticism. . . . [He writes] in his characteristically gentle narrative style, that way he has of seeming to be in casual conversation, discussing matters big and small with an interested and sympathetic companion.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Measured but firm. . . . Achebe’s deeply humane intelligence reverberates.”

“Sharp and fresh. . . . Achebe’s assessment of colonial contact [has] gravitas and pathos. . . . He is one of world literature’s great humane voices.”
The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“A welcome return. . . . [Achebe] writes firmly and vividly. . . . [He] tangles further, and profitably, with the obsessions that have defined his career; colonialism, identity, family, the uses and abuses of language.”
The New York Times
“Quite wonderful: it gives the reader the feeling of sitting across the table and talking on easy terms with one of the world’s deepest and broadest literary minds, gaining insight into Achebe’s life and work, but also into Nigeria, colonialism, and the complicated interplay of European and African culture. . . . Rich and insightful.”
The Buffalo News
“Timeless. . . . Achebe has stayed an engaged and provocative voice. There’s plenty of pluck and fight in this collection. . . . [His] arguments are well reasoned, interesting, and often engrossing.”
—The Associated Press
“This collection of beautifully written autobiographical essays reveals much about [Achebe’s] worldview.”
The Christian Science Monitor
“[Achebe’s] essays range from the political to the historical to the personal, yet they are all projected through an intimate, biographical lens, thus making each a milestone on his long journey on this earth. . . . It is a mark of Achebe’s genius as a narrator that one could hear him many times on the same subject and never grow bored.”
The Guardian (London)
“British protection assumed the humiliation and denial of dignity of colonialism but also allowed for the unpredictable in human affairs. . . . In all of these essays . . . Achebe generously locates and describes this unpredictable area.”
The Boston Globe
“Achebe has discharged the burden of storyteller and intellectual with penetrating intelligence and sensitivity. . . . The essays reveal a characteristic awareness of history . . . and an intellectual temperament suspicious of fanaticism of any sort, secular or religious.”
Financial Times
“The hero Achebe has become is not disassembled before us in these essays. If anything, he is, as an individual hero, remade. . . . [His] many personal anecdotes in The Education amount, in the end, to something like liner notes to the great songs of his novels.”
Columbia Journalism Review
“Early in the book, Achebe states that his thinking occupies the ‘middle-ground’ which is ‘un-dramatic’ and ‘unspectacular.’ But don’t be fooled; his is a voice that roars. . . . There is much to admire about the life and mind of one of the world’s most important writers and thinkers.”
The Independent (London)
“The essays, like his novels, are models of clarity, care and thoughtfulness. They are the product of a western-educated mind, but are suffused with an Igbo sensibility.”
The Times (London)

“Surprising and revelatory . . . wise and scintillating. . . . Here style is substance as Achebe writes with generosity, reason, and elegant clarity about the perpetual struggles between tyranny and resistance, denial and remembrance.”
“For all the ferocity of Achebe’s argument, he never loses his sense of humour, his instinct for poetry, nor his belief in the resilience of the human spirit.”
The Scotsman

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria in 1930. His first novel, Things Falls Apart, became a classic of international literature and required reading for students worldwide. He also authored four subsequent novels, two short-story collections, and numerous other books. He was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and, for over 15 years, was the Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. In 2007, Achebe was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement. He died in 2013.


This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307272559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272553
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on November 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Does it matter, I ask myself, that centuries before these European Christians sailed down to us in ships to deliver the Gospel and save us from darkness, their ancestors, also sailing in ships, had delivered our forefathers to the horrendous transatlantic slave trade and unleashed darkness in our world?" Chinua Achebe, "The Education of a British Protected Child"

51 years ago Chinua Achebe wrote in "Things Fall Apart", "A child's fingers cannot be scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm." In "The Education of a British Protected Child", Achebe revealed why that is so. Woven into a collection of 16 essays the author portrayed the essence Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, to the world in general, and the English speaking west in particular. The themes and topics in this book were not new; some of the essays were revised pieces from his published oeuvre. His defence of English as the lingua franca of Nigeria despite his disdain for colonial rule is best appreciated in the context of the book as a whole. The snippets of life of oppressed Africans, impoverished Nigerians, his personal life growing up in Africa and studying abroad, the impact of Christianity on Africans all have a profound personal impact on this famous, sensitive (in the positive sense) son of Ogidi, Nigeria.

Some of his more famous criticisms of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" can be found in the chapter entitled "Africa's Tarnished Image".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on January 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I very rarely find essays satisfying, but since this was Achebe and it was a library check out, I went for it. I was hoping to learn more about this author and something of Nigeria. There were a few interesting moments such as Achebe's meeting Richard Wright and Langston Hughes, his views on Conrad, travel in Africa in the early 1960's and his impressions on high level literary or policy gatherings, but on the whole this book validates my feeling.

Achebe is a master in developing themes. The essay forces a point and doesn't have the space for layering ideas. Essays work for news events, but there is not enough space to develop a theme.

These pieces cover colonialism, images of Africans in print and the historical record, the rape of Africa after "independence", etc. The book is OK, but Achebe's views are better expressed in his books.

Later - The 5 star rating does not match my review. I meant to give this 3 stars. My finger must have slipped. It does not appear that this can be edited.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Farrell on December 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over my lengthy teaching career, I taught Chinua Achebe's novels THINGS FALL APART (1959) and NO LONGER AT EASE (1960) more often than I taught any other works of imaginative literature of comparable length. Consequently, when I read that Achebe had published a new short collection of essays, I hastened to order a copy of THE EDUCATION OF A BRITISH-PROTECTED CHILD: ESSAYS. As you might expect, I found some of the essays more interesting than others.

But I am writing this customer review to protest against Achebe's continuing charge against Conrad over alleged racist views in Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. Achebe himself gives no evidence in the essays in this new collection - or anywhere else that I know of -- of having considered any counterarguments to his well-publicized arguments. So I propose to set forth here counterarguments for prospective readers of Achebe's new collection of essays to consider.

With respect to the passages in Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS that Achebe has selected to object to, I agree with him that the views expressed in the selected passages in the text can be characterized as racist. But I can think of less harsh terms to use to register the same criticism about the limited range of humanity expressed in certain statements.

But in the frame narrative in Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, the views that Achebe has selected as expressing racist views are imputed in the text to Marlow. But Achebe imputes them to Conrad! But the views in question are not necessarily Conrad's!

Moreover, nowhere in the text is Marlow presented as an apotheosis of all that is good in human nature, as Beatrice is presented in Dante's PARADISO. Furthermore, nowhere does Conrad tell us to take everything Marlow says at face value.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Donelson on February 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" should be repeated every hour on the hour by every school child all over the world until it becomes the mantra of all societies. It is Bantu for "A human is human because of other humans."

The simple but profound adage is the theme of Chinua Achebe's collection of essays, The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays. It may also be the theme of his life's work, judging by the simple message it conveys about the importance of the communal aspirations of the peoples of Africa. He uses it several times in various essays in the book, but really drives the point home in the concluding paragraph of the last one, titled "Africa Is People."

"Our humanity is contingent on the humanity of our fellows. No person or group can be human alone. We rise above the animal together, or not at all. If we learned that lesson even this late in the day, we would have taken a truly millennial step forward."

Achebe, winner of the Man Booker International Prize and best known as the author of Things Fall Apart, one of the seminal works of African fiction, has a subtle, dry voice that makes each of these seventeen essays something to savor and linger over. He makes his points about racial stereotypes, African development, history, and politics, and the African-American diaspora, sometimes with humor, sometimes with biting directness, but always graciously and without rancor. You sense Achebe knows that to rail against injustice is futile; change must come through education achieved one cogent argument at a time.

While Achebe is a scholar, he is also a master storyteller. More often than not, he makes his points not with dry logical argument but with an exegetical tale about someone he's met or something that's happened to him.
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