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.
Achebe's powerful critique of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as a racist mirror of Eurocentric attitudes leads off this challenging collection of essays on art, literature and social issues. The famed Nigerian novelist ( Things Fall Apart ) views literature as a medium that can help Africa regain a belief in itself to replace a posture of self-abasement instilled by its traumatic historical encounter with the West. Tributes to novelists Amos Tutuola and Kofi Awoonor, as well as discerning appraisals of writers such as V. S. Naipaul and James Baldwin, reflect his belief in the power of fiction to give us a ``handle on reality.'' Overall, these concise essays deliver a forceful commentary on Afro-American life and letters. Summing up Nigeria's recent sociopolitical history as ``a snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory,'' Achebe calls active participation in the political process a prerequisite for his country's, and Africa's, regeneration. (Oct.)