Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe

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Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian author who is best known for his book “Things Fall Apart”, first published in 1959. This book, “Home and Exile”, published in 1998 and 10 years from his last book, came from three lectures at Harvard University. The lectures serve as a metaphor for the African story and this is illustrated by an African Proverb about Lions. We learn that “until the Lions produce their own historians, the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter.”

African literature has few writers who tell the authentic story and many who push their own dark versions of what they feel is expected. Achebe is the African’s own historian, a proverb fulfilled, and we see things very differently from his view.

The first lecture, “My Home under Imperial Fire”, tells the African story in an autobiographical account. As with many writers we can see Achebe has an overpowering urge to tell his story. We learn of his childhood, family and what influenced him and his writing.

The second lecture, “The Empire Fights Back” compares African the literature written by outsiders with those of authentic African writers. Achebe examines reactions in England to some outsider books to the reactions of the Nigerians.

The final lecture, “Today, the Balance of stories” is where Achebe questions whether these efforts are worth it.

When we finish reading “Home and Exile” we feel we have tasted the African literary experience but are left wanting to know more. The simple conclusion to the book is that Africans should write about Africans.

See Review of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe by clicking on book above or here

Quotes

“In the end I began to understand. There is such a thing as absolute power over narrative. Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like. Just as in corrupt, totalitarian regimes, those who exercise power over others can do anything.” 

“The Igbo nation in precolonial times was not quite like any nation most people are familiar with. It did not have the apparatus of centralized government but a conglomeration of hundreds of independent towns and villages each of which shared the running of its affairs among its menfolk according to title, age, occupation, etc.; and its women folk who had domestic responsibilities as well as the management of the scores of four-day and eight-day markets that bound the entire region and its neighbours in a network of daily exchange of goods and news, from far and near.”