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Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays Paperback – September 1, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
According to the author, literature is a medium that can impact on social issues and as such can help Africa overcome the negativity learned in its encounter with the West. "Overall, these concise essays deliver a forceful commentary," reported PW .
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Because the Nigerian novelist Achebe usually writes in English, his essays are informed by a sense of encounter between Africa and Europe. In this collection Achebe attacks patronizing Western views of African culture with gusto. Focusing on the role of the writer, he considers literature--written and oral--as a social force. As literary theory, the prophetic, moralizing kind of criticism Achebe favors would need more stringent argument and more careful dissection of opposing views. Beyond that, libraries holding his earlier book, Morning Yet on Creation Day (o.p.), will already have five of the best essays here. Still, the present title has obvious value for African studies collections. Also, since Achebe's novels are frequently assigned in English courses, students might find helpful background here.
- Donald Ray, Mercy Coll. Lib., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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After previously enjoying some of Chinua Achebe's fiction, I decided to try his essays. I'd heard that his essay on Conrad's Heart of Darkness was controversial, and I was intrigued. I found his essays to be very accessible. His tone is often passionate, yet tempered with dry witty humor as well. He openly addresses issues of race and colonialism, but his attitude is not that of a victim. His fiery writing is often an address to his fellow Nigerians to reclaim their dignity and independent spirit.
The two most interesting essays to me in this collection were "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" and "Colonialist Criticism." As an example of his style, I'll quote a favorite portion from the latter. In the context of European criticism of the African novel, he says, "[D]id not the black people in America, deprived of their own instruments, take the trumpet and the trombone and blow them as they had never been blown before, as indeed they were not designed to be blown? And the result, was it not jazz? Is anyone going to say that this was a loss to the world or that those first Negro slaves who began to play around with discarded instruments of their masters should have played waltzes and foxtrots? No! Let every people bring their gifts to the great festival of the world's cultural harvest and mankind will be all the richer for the variety and distinctiveness of the offerings."
If you're not familiar at all with Nigerian history or literature, I would suggest familiarizing yourself with it to some degree before trying this collection of essays. A good start might be Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (the pre-colonial era), Onitsha by JMG Le Clézio (colonial period), and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (post-colonial/Biafran War).