Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays
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One of the most provocative and original voices in contemporary literature, Chinua Achebe here considers the place of literature and art in our society in a collection of essays spanning his best writing and lectures from the last twenty-three years. For Achebe, overcoming goes hand in hand with eradicating the destructive effects of racism and injustice in Western society. He reveals the impediments that still stand in the way of open, equal dialogue between Africans and Europeans, between blacks and whites, but also instills us with hope that they will soon be overcome.
fine and dramatic moment when the prophet Ezekiel proposes to his people a shift in dealing with the old paradox. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” he says, superseding in that bold declaration the teaching that when fathers eat sour grapes their children’s teeth are set on edge. Some years ago, John Updike after he had finished reading my Arrow of God wrote me a letter in which he made some interesting observations. I’d like to quote a paragraph from that letter because it has an
eyes flaming like a parrot’s tail feather. Never did an honest day’s work. All he knew was to sit in judgment on others and get a drink out of them. Through this teeming allegory we catch glimpses of the hero Amamu at significant moments in his life. The phrase “catch glimpses” is in fact misleading, since we know that even in those sequences that are most remote from him personally—for example, in the invocation of the poet killed in battle, Okigbo, or the assassinated freedom fighter,
that we have come to take its benefits for granted. Which, in a way, might be called the ultimate tribute; rather like the unspoken worship and thanksgiving which a man renders with every breath he draws. If it were different we would not be men but angels, incapable of boredom. Unquestionably, language was crucial to the creation of society. There is no way in which human society could exist without speech. By society we do not, of course, mean the mechanical and mindless association of the
same time the law, in pursuit of equity, will pretend that the woman dies before her husband, so that excessive hardship may not be brought upon their estate. In other words, we invent different fictions to help us out of particular problems we encounter in living. But of course these problems are not always as specific and clear-cut, or indeed as consciously perceived, as the lawyer’s or the mathematician’s formulations. When two very young children say to each other, “Let us pretend …” and
Richard Wright as well. I had all my schooling in the educational system of colonial Nigeria. In that system Americans, when they were featured at all, were dismissed summarily by our British administrators as loud and vulgar. Their universities which taught such subjects as dish-washing naturally produced the half-baked noisy political agitators some of whom were now rushing up and down the country because they had acquired no proper skills. But there was one American book which the colonial