Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME ENTER FORUMS OUR BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Mon Dec 09, 2019 9:18 am





Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 13 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 
X- 1 HD: Racist Author? Controversy: Chinua Achebe. 
Author Message
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Oddly Attracted to Books

Gold Contributor

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 1543
Location: France
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 35 times in 35 posts
Gender: Female
Country: France (fr)

Post X- 1 HD: Racist Author? Controversy: Chinua Achebe.
X-1- Is Conrad a racist author? Controversy, Chinua Achebe.


"In a post-colonial reading, the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe famously criticized Heart of Darkness in his 1975 lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", saying the novel de-humanized Africans, denied them language and culture, and reduced them to a metaphorical extension of the dark and dangerous jungle into which the Europeans venture."
Wikipedia.


I highly recommend reading the following document , and I hope you will feel like discussing it, as it is a gold mine: Chinua Achebe, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness."

http://social.chass.ncsu.edu/wyrick/debclass/achcon.htm


It is also interesting to read a biography of Achebe, who was a teacher and a writer.

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/achebe.htm


_________________
Ophelia.


Last edited by Ophelia on Sat Feb 09, 2008 3:43 am, edited 2 times in total.



Sun Feb 03, 2008 1:48 pm
Profile
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6364
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 1850
Thanked: 2037 times in 1542 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post 
That is a powerful essay by Achebe. I think he must be correct in much of it, as far as I would be able to judge. In the book, there is, regarding the African people, certainly that generalizing and simplifying that is a hallmark of racism. The native people are, as Achebe says, distinguished not by any cultural achievements, but by their status as emanations of the jungle, described in zoological terms. It is true that the Europeans don't come off well, either, but theirs is the more dramatic and significant failure of the superior race.

Achebe may also be right about Kurtz being a hollow figure and in no way worthy of the awe that Marlow shows for him. Big deal, Kurtz goes nuts and loses all his fine principles. He ends up a mass murderer who may discover what a bad character he was upon his own death. Marlow tells us over and over about Kurtz's effect on him, but he does little showing of Kurtz's supposed magnificence. It's hard to see any tragic quality in Kurtz that would so affect Marlow. In that regard, the book may not be even the complete artistic success it is reputed to be.

This book is a triumph of the rendering of a setting, of atmosphere, and the portrayal of Marlow's psychological state. I find the message of the book the less impressive part.

Will



Thu Feb 07, 2008 11:59 pm
Profile
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Eligible to vote in book polls!


Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 29
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 3 times in 3 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post 
Ok, I have a few problems with this. First, you always have to be careful when attempting to judge someone writing in 1902 by the standards of today (or in the case of this essay 1977).
Second, the treatment that Conrad has his narrator give to the natives actually furthers and enhances the effect of the novel because you see the Africans through the eyes of the colonizing forces, not some third party who is cleaning everything up and making it politically correct.



Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:51 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Oddly Attracted to Books

Gold Contributor

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 1543
Location: France
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 35 times in 35 posts
Gender: Female
Country: France (fr)

Post 
I'll quote a few important passages from Achebes's 36 point essay (1977).


_________________
Ophelia.


Last edited by Ophelia on Sat Feb 09, 2008 7:35 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:24 am
Profile
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6364
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 1850
Thanked: 2037 times in 1542 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post 
I didn't answer the question Penelope put directly: Is Conrad a racist author? To that, I would say no. I believe that HD reflects the common racism of the day, but that does not to me make it a racist book (it is more than its observations on race) and certainly does not make Conrad a racist author. That seems ridiculous to me, as if one aspect of a writer's rich output should be considered sufficient to hang a label on him.

What Achebe seemed to be trying to achieve was simply ackowledgement that Conrad didview the African people through the lens of European racial superiority. Achebe says that in the critical discussions of the work, little is mentioned about the distorting effect of European prejudice on the portrayal of the Africans. I would have to take his word on that, not knowing much about the critical literature.

As to Penelope's quote from Achebe stating that Conrad goes beyond the background level of prejudice in his world, showing some special animus against black-skinned people, I don't know how Achebe can really guage this. The examples he gave do not convince me in themselves. Elsewhere in Conrad's work, or even in his letters, do we find confirmation that he was adamant about the inferiority of blacks? I'm no Conrad expert, so I couldn't say.

Will



Sat Feb 09, 2008 10:29 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Oddly Attracted to Books

Gold Contributor

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 1543
Location: France
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 35 times in 35 posts
Gender: Female
Country: France (fr)

Post 
Ibid and DWill,
I quite agree with you. Of course, somebody like Achebe draws great respect because of his writings and the cause he fought for, but still we may disagree with him.
As Ibid notes, the date of publication of Achebe's essay is important. In the 1970's, in the context of anti-racist movements in many countries, a voice like his was necessary, and in the field of literature he probably started a renewal of interest for Conrad and the theme of colonialism. Conrad deserves to be studied, and colonialism must be confronted rather than pushed under the rug, so this is all to the good.
Yet Achebe does not convince me in his accusation of racism on Conrad's part in Heart of Darkness. Now and then, I find a sentence or a phrase which could not have been written by someone who sided with the Europeans in Africa.

Have you found such sentences?


_________________
Ophelia.


Sat Feb 09, 2008 11:59 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Oddly Attracted to Books

Gold Contributor

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 1543
Location: France
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 35 times in 35 posts
Gender: Female
Country: France (fr)

Post 
Dwill wrote:

Quote:
As to Penelope's quote from Achebe stating that Conrad goes beyond the background level of prejudice in his world, showing some special animus against black-skinned people, I don't know how Achebe can really gauge this. The examples he gave do not convince me in themselves


Yes, I also find Achebe's examples unconvincing, and also confusing in their presentation: in the text I have there are no quotation marks, and he moves from one thing to another, only sometimes giving a source.


So far I have one example from HD:


_________________
Ophelia.


Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:31 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Oddly Attracted to Books

Gold Contributor

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 1543
Location: France
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 35 times in 35 posts
Gender: Female
Country: France (fr)

Post 
Achebe,


_________________
Ophelia.


Last edited by Ophelia on Sat Feb 09, 2008 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Feb 09, 2008 1:13 pm
Profile
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Genius


Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 759
Thanks: 3
Thanked: 13 times in 12 posts
Gender: None specified

Post I wholly agree
Ibid wrote:
Ok, I have a few problems with this. First, you always have to be careful when attempting to judge someone writing in 1902 by the standards of today (or in the case of this essay 1977).
Second, the treatment that Conrad has his narrator give to the natives actually furthers and enhances the effect of the novel because you see the Africans through the eyes of the colonizing forces, not some third party who is cleaning everything up and making it politically correct.


I haven't been able to do so much as a few pages, so far this weekend - going to see how far I can get tonight, but I just wanted to say that wholly agree with the first paragraph ofyour post here.

Books from the early 70's are a world away from today's writings.

In the '70's, we were still writing and reading about very primitive places in Africa.

I think though, that when a writer places a story in the mid-century - say, 1940, things would be more primitive.

Another thing that's hard to deal with in novels, is writers who insist on putting modern-day values and ethics into stories that are placed in times like the late 1800's or early 1900's.

To have somebody say 'No way, Jose' in a novel that takes place in 1949, is just plain out of place.

That saying came from the late sixties, early seventies.

So you have to figure on the dialogue of the times when you write a story.

Best way to study that is to read books from that time in history.



Sat Feb 09, 2008 3:11 pm
Profile
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6364
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 1850
Thanked: 2037 times in 1542 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post 
It's a little bit odd to me that Conrad, while clearly showing us the moral bankruptcy of the Europeans and their cruel explotation of the Africans, does not seem to have a lot of sympathy for the victims. He doesn't appear to believe that what has been taken from the Congo people is much of a loss. I have some trouble with the moral viewpoint, after all. I don't know what to make of Kurtz' descent into the heart of darkness. Is it a descent to the level of the native people, as Kurtz adopts their "unspeakable rites"? I can't credit this view as valid, because I think Conrad/Marlow's depiction of the indigenous people is heavy on caricature and shows the racism of his day. I would rather see Kurtz' own destructiveness and depravity as constituting the heart of darkness, that he brought this in himself as a foreign quality, but I am not at all sure that is really in the book that Conrad wrote. Maybe others see this differently. Is the theme of this book a muddle, or does it have a satisfying ambiguity for you?

Will[/i]



Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:54 pm
Profile
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Genius


Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 759
Thanks: 3
Thanked: 13 times in 12 posts
Gender: None specified

Post 
I kind of see the 'darkness' as being all of that which we do not know.

Ignorance and racism are two different things.

Racism, to my way of thinking, is a sense of 'meanness' toward people who are different.

Ignorance is what you do not know.

We are now exploring Mars - sending our robots around, digging, prying - we say 'there is no life there'.

There IS no life 'as we know it'. For all we know 'life' could be 'vibration' in rocks, a 'warmth/heat', just plain 'vibes'.

So in a way, as far as Martians are concerned, we are racists. We are ignorant of their existence, of their form of 'life' and therefore, we are mean beings who are all too ready to jump up and say there IS no life.



Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:15 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Gold Contributor

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 5832
Location: Canberra
Thanks: 2289
Thanked: 2216 times in 1675 posts
Gender: Male
Country: Australia (au)

Post 
Thanks for sharing Achebe's article. In my opinion it presents a coherent but incorrect reading of Heart of Darkness. Conrad is slamming racism by taking us inside the mind of the racist. This is highly discomforting, and gives no basis for Achebe's reading that Conrad is somehow justifying European colonialism as a 'purveyor of comforting myths'.

The na



Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:12 am
Profile Email WWW
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Oddly Attracted to Books

Gold Contributor

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 1543
Location: France
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 35 times in 35 posts
Gender: Female
Country: France (fr)

Post 
Robert wrote:

"Achebe presents a political reading of HD by identifying Conrad with Marlowe, a plausible line but in the end wrong."

Robert, I agree with everything you wrote in this posting.

One clear example that Achebe was wrong can be found in the following quote:

" All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by and by I learnt that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had entrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance." (p 69)

Conrad is not someone who writes a diatribe in modern antiracist terms, but to me the name " International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs" is better than a speech. How could Achebe have missed it?

I laughed when I read it, and, just in case the Europeans had indeed invented such a farcical name, I turned to note nb 100 provided by the Penguin edition:

"Conrad might have had in mind the International Association for the Exploration and Civilizing of Africa, of which King Leopold was the president".

The name invented by Conrad is probably exactly what the Europeans had in mind; it shows he had no illusions about how colonizers thought, and it shows that he disapproved.[/quote]


_________________
Ophelia.


Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:47 am
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 13 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:



Site Resources 
HELPFUL INFO:
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!

IDEAS FOR WHAT TO READ:
Bestsellers
Book Awards
• Book Reviews
• Online Books
• Team Picks
Newspaper Book Sections

WHERE TO BUY BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

BEHIND THE BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

PROMOTE YOUR BOOK!
Advertise on BookTalk.org
How To Promote Your Book





BookTalk.org is a thriving book discussion forum, online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a community. Our forums are open to anyone in the world. While discussing books is our passion we also have active forums for talking about poetry, short stories, writing and authors. Our general discussion forum section includes forums for discussing science, religion, philosophy, politics, history, current events, arts, entertainment and more. We hope you join us!


Navigation 
MAIN NAVIGATION

HOMEFORUMSOUR BOOKSAUTHOR INTERVIEWSADVERTISELINKSFAQDONATETERMS OF USEPRIVACY POLICYSITEMAP

OTHER PAGES WORTH EXPLORING
Banned Book ListOnline Reading GroupTop 10 Atheism Books

Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2019. All rights reserved.
Display Pagerank