Chinua Achebe Home and Exile Book Review 

downloadChinua Achebe Home and Exile narrates the life of the author from the time he returns to his father birthplace in Ogidi, as a child, after his father retires as a missionary in 1935, up to the time he arrives in London for the first time as an adult. Using sarcasm, he differentiates the difference between a tribe and a nation, and conversely refers to his people, the Igbo, as a nation contrary to colonial settlers who refer to them as a tribe, as a way to dehumanize and portray them as barbaric, yet they are civil and more than ten million plus. He achieves this brilliantly by using the white’s man Oxford dictionary.

To say that Chinua uses allegory to achieve his strength as a writer would be an understatement. He has, on my occasions in the book, used this art to bring about satire to explore some serious themes like colonization, the under the weather perception of Africa by foreign authors including Joseph Conrad, Joyce Cary, and Elspeth Huxley; the brainwashing of Africans in diaspora, who heavily criticize African authors by citing  their books are poor in language, are badly written and edited, have weak plots, and  have Africanized English thereby hard to comprehend, take pleasure in reading, therefore distant themselves, denounce and disown their African status; the incorrect, biased and under researched information about Africa in history books, as well as in works of fiction that portray Africa as a jungle and the native inferior than the colonizer; the awful depiction of African literature by foreigners, among other staid themes.

Major Themes in Chinua Achebe Home and Exile

  1. The misconstrued Conception of Africa by foreign authorsdownload (3)

 Most of the books written by foreigners, both fiction and nonfiction, about Africa portray it as a dark continent invested with poverty, disease, hunger, and its inhabitants are barbaric, live with animals in the wild, and have no form of civilisation. This colossal lie has been portrayed over the years by many authors including Joyce Cary in her book, Mister Johnson, which describes Africa as a gloomy dark place with nincompoop natives, who do not have the decency of being civil. The author seems to be a student of Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness. Here is an extract from the novel:

“Fada is the ordinary native town of the Western Sudan. It has no beauty, convenience or health. It is a dwelling place at one stage from the rabbit warren or the badger burrow; and not so cleanly kept as the latter…..All its mud walls are eaten as if by small pox; half of the mats in the compound are always rotten. Poverty and ignorance, the absolute government of jealous savages, conservative as only the savage can be, have kept it at the first frontier of civilization. Its people would not know the change if time jumped back fifty thousand years. They live like mice or rats in a palace floor…’

Joyce Cary seems to have a narrow biased view of Africa. What she talks of in her book has no relation to Africa. What she describes could only be in a continent in Mars. She lacks proper knowledge to describe what she thinks she knows. She perceives everything from the angle of the English master and the colonial bondsman. This, just like Conrad, has been the lie that has been spread over the years about Africa. Yet these writers have no idea of what they speak of, and this has had a huge taint on both Africa and her rich dynamic literature. Most historical books that are written by foreign authors, who are misinformed, have no idea about what they speak of, have no truth in them, and illustrate Africa in a bad light. Ironic enough these books have turned out to be best sellers in the West, and have made a vast population of people to believe in this obscene lie even up to today.images

Historical books like The Africa That Was Never Was by Hammond and Jablow, shows how most foreign writers were ‘bad writers’ who did not deserve any literary merit, were not supposed to be published in the first place, as they preach hearsay and total bullshit, if I may be allowed to say so, and had no relevance to the present reality! However the same book brings about a contradiction; it goes on to say some of the best authors who have ever written about Africa included: Conrad, Cary, Green and Huxley. Chinua here, with sarcasm, ponders if Hammond and Jablow considered these as the ‘best writers’, who have written about Africa, how bad must be the ones they referred to as ‘bad writers’? Here is an extract from The Africa That Was Never Was:

“The better writers, such as Conrad, Cary, Green and Huxley…use the convections of the tradition with skill and subtlety. Each of them has an unmistakably individual style in which he or she selectively exploits the convections, without allowing the writing to become overwhelmed by them. They all have more to say about Africa than the merely convectional clichés, along with the talent to say it.”

Hammond and Jablow seem to congratulate their forefathers on their lack of direction and facts, but what they do not put in mind is how derogatory and humanly insane these books portray Africa in a bad light. But then again what makes them any different from racists and misinformed dull foreign writers as what was the case with their predecessors?download (2)


  1. Retaliation Of African Writers to Western scepticism About Africa

Apart from Chinua being a vanguard of African literature, he has gone into detail to analyse strong African writers like Amos Tutuola, and Jomo Kenyatta, who have portrayed Africa in a new light, as a rich continent with wealth, affluent culture and astounding breadth of knowledge. Tutuola’s book, The Palm-Wine Drinker was sensational, and some foreign authors like Dylan Thomas, who neither landed in Africa, nor knew the author’s background praised it for its magnificence. Chinua notes:

“..Thomas wasted no time and seemingly no effort getting right into the spirit of Tutuola’s tale. He also captured the letter of it and gave a masterful and joyous summary of the plot such as no one, to my knowledge, has ever bettered, for its comprehensiveness, accuracy or humour.”

Much as Tutuola’s novel was good, not all foreign authors embraced it. Authors like Exspeth Huxley described the book in a grim light as having queer distorted poetry. The author went ahead to criticize the book as filled with death and spirits. Her attack on African literature and art did not stop here. As a nicknamed spokesman for the white settlers, in her book, The Flame Tress of Thika, she goes on to describe Kenya and her natives in a dull language as a place in need of ‘white man’s civilization’. She, like many foreign authors, did not recognise African writers as worth of any literary merit. She, even though trying to identify herself with the natives, was no different from other colonial settlers who saw the natives as slaves and nothing (1)

The criticism of Tutuola’s works did not stop with his first book, his second novel, My life in the Bush of Ghosts, met with harsh sentiments, worst still from his fellow Africans in Britain, who felt ashamed and embarrassed by his story, citing that it had incorrect English, yet ironically enough they had not read the book. They even had the guts to denounce their African status, with one Nigerian author living in London saying:

‘Writing coming from Nigeria, from Africa (I know this because my son does the criticism) sounds quite stilted. After reading the first page you tell yourself you are plodding. But when you are reading the same thing written by an English person or somebody who lives here, you find you are enjoying it because the language is so academic, so perfect.”

Clearly some African writers who live in diaspora have been brainwashed to think in a certain strange way, that what comes from their motherland is substandard. This is a tragedy seeing that these same people have been conditioned to perceive foreigners as superior. They suffer from a terrible disease of inferiority complex. These individuals just give me bad taste in the mouth, they are the kind of individuals who would swallow any form of shit from aliens; they are second-handers, without any mind of their own. They are misconstrued individuals, who absorb anything from the west so as to appear relevant, cool and hype. They are a bunch of scoundrels: to the devil with them!

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