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.
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.