March 22, 2013

NO WORRIES, BECOMING WESTERN IS PUTTING THEM BACK TOGETHER:

Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82 (JONATHAN KANDELL, 3/22/13, NY Times)

"Things Fall Apart" gave expression to Mr. Achebe's first stirrings of anti-colonialism and a desire to use literature as a weapon against Western biases. As if to sharpen it with irony, he borrowed from the Western canon itself in using as its title a line from Yeats's apocalyptic poem"The Second Coming."

"In the end, I began to understand," Mr. Achebe later wrote. "There is such a thing as absolute power over narrative. Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like."

Though Mr. Achebe spent his later decades teaching at American universities, most recently Brown, his writings -- novels, stories, poems, essays and memoirs -- were almost invariably rooted in the countryside and cities of his native Nigeria. His most memorable fictional characters were buffeted and bewildered by the competing pulls of traditional African culture and invasive Western values.

"Things Fall Apart," which is set in the late 19th century, tells the story of Okonkwo, who rises from poverty to become a wealthy farmer and Igbo village leader. British colonial rule throws his life into turmoil, and in the end, unable to adapt, he explodes in frustration, killing an African in the employ of the British and then committing suicide.

The acclaim for "Things Fall Apart" was not unanimous. Some British critics thought it idealized pre-colonial African culture at the expense of the former empire.

"An offended and highly critical English reviewer in a London Sunday paper titled her piece cleverly, I must admit, 'Hurray to Mere Anarchy!' " Mr. Achebe wrote in "Home and Exile," a 200o collection of autobiographical essays. Some critics found his early novels to be stronger on ideology than on narrative interest. But his stature grew, until he was considered a literary and political beacon, influencing generations of African writers as well as many in the West.

"It would be impossible to say how 'Things Fall Apart' influenced African writing," the Princeton scholarKwame Anthony Appiah once wrote. "It would be like asking how Shakespeare influenced English writers or Pushkin influenced Russians."

Of course, No Longer At Ease essentially laments the end of colonial rule.
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Posted by at March 22, 2013 5:36 PM
  

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