The Massachusetts Review, Inc. An Image Of Africa

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The Massachusetts Review, Inc.

An Image of Africa
Author(s): Chinua Achebe
Source: The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Winter, 1977), pp. 782-794
Published by: The Massachusetts Review, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25088813 .
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AN IMAGE OF AFRICA
CHINUA ACHEBE

IT WAS A FINE AUTUMN MORNING AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS to passing academic year such as encouraged friendliness strangers. were hurrying in all directions,
Brisk youngsters of them many freshmen in their first flush of enthusiasm. An older man, obviously to me how very going the same way as I, turned and remarked came me if I was a
I
these
Then
he asked young they agreed. days. student too. I said no, I was a teacher. What did I teach? African that was funny, he said, because he never had literature. Now thought of Africa as having that kind of stuff, you know. By this time I was walking much faster. "Oh well," I heard him say finally, behind me, "I guess I have to take your course to find out."
A few weeks later I received two very touching letters from high their teacher?had school children in Yonkers, New York, who?bless just read Things Fall Apart. One of them was particularly happy to of an African tribe. learn about the customs and superstitions to draw from these rather trivial encounters rather I propose seem somewhat out of heavy conclusions which at first sight might to them: But only at first sight. proportion The young fellow from Yonkers, perhaps partly on account of his is age but I believe also for much deeper and more serious reasons, unaware in Yonkers, that the life of his own tribesmen obviously is full of odd customs and superstitions
New York, and, like every to body else in his culture, imagines that he needs a trip to Africa encounter those things. on The other person being fully my own age could not be excused the grounds of his years. Ignorance might be a more reason; likely than a mere that something more willful but here again I believe lack of information was at work. For did not that erudite British at Oxford,
Trevor Roper, and Regius
Professor
historian
Hugh
a few years ago that African history did not exist? pronounce ex than youthful in these utterances more
If there is something
This
Amherst,

paper was
February

given as a Chancellor's
18, 1975.

Lecture

at the University

782

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of Massachusetts,

An Image of Africa than a lack of factual knowledge, what is it? Quite perience, more it Western is the indeed say the need?in desire?one simply might to set Africa up as a foil in Europe, a place of negations psychology at once remote and vaguely in comparison with which familiar Europe's own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.
This need is not new: which should relieve us of considerable us even willing to look at this and make responsibility perhaps
I have neither the desire nor, indeed, phenomenon dispassionately. to do so with the tools of the social and biological the competence to one famous book of sciences. But, I can respond, as a novelist, which better fiction, Joseph Conrad's Heart of…