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Chinua Achebe

Topics: Igbo people, Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Writing, Atlantic slave trade, No Longer at Ease / Pages: 3 (748 words) / Published: Oct 5th, 2008
Chinua Achebe

The three essays written by Chinua Achebe, The Novelist as a Teacher 1965, Where Angels Fear to Tread 1962, The Role of a Writer in a New Nation 1964, were written to discuss and illuminate how African writers and their works are perceived and related to in Europe, America and Africa itself. If read chronologically you begin with Where Angels Fear to Tread , presumably referring to the critics like the, “Europeans who think they have special knowledge of Africa”. When in fact they know very little about its past or present. Achebe says, “he would not dream of constructing theories to explain ‘the European mind’ with the same ‘bold face’ that some Europeans assume in explaining [his]”. He goes on to describe the different types of critics he and other African writers encounter frequently. “The peevishly hostile…Angry with…colonial freedom and…gross ingratitude for colonial benefits”. Then there are those who are influenced by the common stereotype that African peoples are uneducated and can hardly believe they can write, let alone know English. Still implying that Africa is a relatively primitive place. Achebe does point out the flaws of African writers themselves that very well may indulge such critics. “…couldn’t do worse than the author…who invented an Ibo hero with a Yoruba name”. While Achebe does have a serious message he manages to keep an overall light tone, addressing the inadequacies of foreign critics and the inadequacies of African writers themselves.

Achebe then turns his attention to Africa itself in ,The Role of a Writer in a New Nation . Where it seems in a newly freed nation there is much disconnect from historical culture and the influences it has on modern Africa. “We can not pretend that our past was long Technicolor idyll. We have to admit that…ours had its good as well as its bad sides”. He calls upon African writers to help regain dignity and self respect in African Peoples. Colonization degraded the culture and customs in fact “ to say that a product was Ibo-made was to brand it [inferior]”. Achebe has pride in his nation and as a writer wants to embrace the past in order to “set the scene which is authentically Africa; then what follows will be meaningful and deep”. Achebe also mentions what he views is a crisis in his modern culture; which is the individuals acceptance of his own shoddy work. I believe he fears it will only perpetuate the negative perception of African peoples. This manifesting itself in the publication of “trash” that is coming out of Africa, because African writers have now become trendy. “African societies of the past with all their imperfections, were not consumers, but producers of culture”. Achebe believes African writers should take pride in themselves, their culture and their Africa. Saying writers should create to, “enrich not only [their] lives but the life of the world”.

Achebe continues with this voice although in a slightly different tone in, The Novelist as a Teacher . Here he touches upon the more personal relationship with the reader, their criticism, their stereotypes. “What society expects from its writers”. Its suggested by his readers now that he is a prevalent writer he needs to make political and societal statements in order not to squander “ a rare opportunity for education on a whimsical and frivolous exercise”. Achebe’s view is quite opposite saying, “he must remain free to disagree with his society”. Achebe is still concerned with Africa’s own society not accepting it’s culture and history. Like in the case of the little boy who in fear of being ridiculed writes a poem about “winter” instead of “harmattan”. Achebe believes that writers have a duty to teach others to be prideful of their background, “with all its imperfections” that, “their past…was not one long night of savagery from which Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them”. Achebe sees that Africa has been done a great injustice by colonialism, but now it is up to them to “re-educate and regenerate”.

These essays are about independence, recollection and revolution. Achebe calls upon the many flaws in the perception of Africa, but also what Africa must do for itself in order to overcome. Achebe is using his ability and freedom to write to inspire and challenge. His frustrations are counterweighted with solutions for change. He believes in modern Africa as well as its history and knows that you must embrace the past in order to perpetuate progression.

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