So Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died and Chinua Achebe’s An Image of Africa have made the Guardian list of the 100 greatest non-fiction books.
The Man Died, selected under the category, Memoir, records Soyinka’s experiences in prison during the Biafran war. At that time, Soyinka had campaigned for a peaceful settlement of the crisis between the Biafran and Nigerian side; an idea that didn’t go down well with the Gowon administration. He was arrested and put in solitary confinement for twenty-two months for his efforts. Being in prison didn’t deter Soyinka from writing poems on tissue paper which were later published in a collection titled Poems from Prison.
In An Image of Africa, Achebe lambasted Conrad for portraying African characters as savages, incapable of intelligent speech. As Achebe says, “Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world,” the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant beastiality.”
Reading this article, one cannot but marvel at the expressions used by Conrad to describe the African characters; phrases like ‘to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat walking on his hind legs’
It is surprising that the book made the list as it is widely believed that Achebe’s criticism of Conrad has been the snag in his winning the Nobel prize.
Please read the article and let’s know what you think!