What Achebe does in this collection of 16 essays is to explain to the reader, intentionally and clearly, his views on a number of issues, namely; writing in the English language in African Literature (why English is necessary and not to be frown upon as ‘the language of the colonizers’); the overwhelming bias in the way the West has come to view Africa; the tragedy of the Biafra War; the complexity that is African politics and Western meddling etc.
Achebe saves his puncher for the last where, in the final essay of the book, Africa Is People, he gives a compelling argument about the greed of the rich and the suffering of the poor. Achebe effectively tells his side of the story in this book and, if I could choose a central theme to the book – which there really isn’t because he discusses a wealth of things – I would say it truly is the education of Achebe, which he has so kindly shared.
It is a riveting read which also opened my eyes to a range of other literary giants, increasing my appetite for their work: Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, WEB DuBois, Nuruddin Farah.
I rate the book 7 over 10 which, to be honest, is a biased rating. It’s not an 8 only because, at heart, I’m a fiction-lover and sometimes found the flow of the book lecture-like.