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Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  243 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
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 Eurocentrism goes hand in hand with eradicating the destructive effects of racism and injustice in We ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 1st 1990 by Anchor (first published 1988)
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Blood River by Tim ButcherThings Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieChasing the Devil by Tim Butcher
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Community Reviews

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Apr 05, 2015 Rowena rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-lit, essays
This was a great collection of essays from one of my favourite authors. I'm quite in awe by how Achebe managed to almost singlehandedly put African literature on the map and it’s clear he cares a lot about his culture, his continent, and fiction in general.

If there’s anyone I would trust to succinctly point out what’s wrong with Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” it would be Achebe. Out of all the essays I read in this collection, his "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness"
Ian "Marvin" Graye
An Image of Conrad

The only Achebe work I have read is the essay that resulted from the lecture, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'", which I read after reading Conrad's novel for at least the third time:

I had read extracts from the essay and was aware of its general thrust before re-reading the novel. I was looking forward to discovering a new twist on a novel that I had loved as a secondary school student. An awareness of the deba
Samir Rawas Sarayji
Where does one begin with the mesmerizing writings of Achebe? Perhaps with his magical formula:

Simple English + Intellectual Insight + Close Analysis = Beautiful Writing

I think this sums him up, not only of this essay collection, but of his fiction as well. The 14 essays that make up Hopes and Impediments are primarily from reviews first published in well-known literary magazines or lectures given at universities. The style is so accessible that even at 170 pages, the book is a quick read. It wo
Dec 21, 2009 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A Gem of a book. Literally. Because that’s what you’ll be left holding, in all its mesmerizing beauty, as the heat from Achebe’s prose blasts away the myths and patronizing images of Africa created in the west. The language is precise and elegant; the arguments cleanly and logically, Venn diagram like, laid out – his vivisection of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is alone worth the price of admission. An underrated classic from Africa’s grandmaster.
missy jean
Jul 16, 2011 missy jean rated it it was amazing
Chinua Achebe rocks so hard. It's not often I read an essay that makes me want to stand up and cheer--but the essays in this book made me feel that way over and over again. Achebe is brilliant at calling out racism and neocolonialism in all their blatant and subtle manifestations. Also, can I just say that I can't believe I made it through an MFA program without encountering the essay "The Truth of Fiction," because it is pitch-perfect, one of the best explanations I've ever read of the essentia ...more
Oct 08, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, essays
When my husband first saw me reading this book he said, “Hope and Impediments? What’s that, a Jane Austen novel?” Sorry, not even close…

After previously enjoying some of Chinua Achebe’s fiction, I decided to try his essays. I’d heard that his essay on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was controversial, and I was intrigued. I found his essays to be very accessible. His tone is often passionate, yet tempered with dry witty humor as well. He openly addresses issues of race and colonialism, but his attitu
Sidharth Vardhan
This is an excellent collection of essays and journalism – most of them manage to look into African cultures in particular, while at time analyzing a theme fr humanity in general.

North and South

Achebe uses words ‘North’ and ‘South’ in same sense as we use ‘West’ and ‘East’. His North means Europe and also includes USA. He argues that Africa has so not been allowed to speak for itself – it has been assumed by west that it is incapable of doing so as if Africans were children or worse still anim
Oct 01, 2013 Jessica rated it did not like it
Shelves: school-books
While Achebe does make some valid points in his varies speeches and essays, as a reader, I am unfortunately blinded by his tone and ferver. Achebe looses some of his academic cred the moment he calls Conrad "a bloody racist". He even seems to go so far as to say that anyone who doesn't think Conrad is racist is inherently racist themselves.

There are some interesting sections regarding the need for communication between cultures, and the things that have prohibited a proper line of communication
Carol Dixon
Nov 21, 2015 Carol Dixon rated it really liked it
I recently spent time reading the text of Chinua Achebe's 1975 lecture, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" - which provided a carefully observed critique of the inherent racism(s) and negative representations of Africa and Africans that litter Joseph Conrad's (in)famous 19th century novella. Unlike the more ambivalent interpretations provided by writers such as Peter Edgerly Firchow (e.g. his book 'Envisioning Africa'), Achebe's analysis of the various literary stereotype ...more
Jan 06, 2016 Barak rated it really liked it
This book contains various essays by the Nigerian Chinua Achebe (one of the first African authors to write Novels about Africans “from within”), tackling issues of writing, literature, Colonialism, Africa, and everything in between.

It also contains the essay where Achebe is dissecting Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to show its racist elements.

Other issues discussed in the book are the role of literature, of the African novelists, of the African novel, as well as various criticisms of his own criti
Aug 24, 2014 Salvatore rated it it was ok
Thought provoking: Yes. Well argued: Sometimes. Exclamation points: Yes! (The most I've seen in criticism, ever!) I just wish he dug deeper, ruminated more on his subjects tackled here. A lot on 'this is not Africa' and arguing against Western broad summarizations of the continent, and yet using broad summarizations to defend his own arguments/theories. There is not a lot of textual evidence. Again, the question of whether to read Conrad, especially Heart of Darkness comes up. Achebe is very muc ...more
olha rodd
Oct 14, 2014 olha rodd rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest essayists in contemporary literature! Was blown away with his style and manner of writing about different forms of discrimination, racism, colonialism and victimization through the haze of modern history of African nation. You should definitely draw attention to Chinua Achebe's works if you are in a process of discovering cultural and ethical flaws of our society.
Jared Colley
May 15, 2007 Jared Colley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in Achebe, African lit., issues of postcolonialism
This is a great collection of essays, including his famous attack on Conrad's Heart of Darkness as an unforgivably racist novel. There is also great material on issues like postcolonialism, oral vs written literature, as well as other topics. Achebe is a positive, hopeful voice in a global world that often seems bleak in terms of achieving multicultural harmony & understanding....
Yumna Hari
Apr 18, 2016 Yumna Hari rated it really liked it
Reading the chapter on Kofi Awoonor made me determined to track down a copy of This Earth, My Brother.

His penultimate three chapters are a great summary of why I read and why I'd like to write. Language and the Destiny of Man, The Truth of Fiction and What has Literature got to do with It? are gems for the ages.
Excellent collection of essays focusing on (mostly African) literature and art and on colonialism. The first essay alone--"An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness"--is worth the price of admission.
Femi Kush
May 10, 2015 Femi Kush rated it it was amazing
A God among writers.
Aug 04, 2014 Inna rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully combative essays on Africa, literature, African literature, racism in literary criticism and the experience of being an African writer.
Adam Shaeffer
Jan 14, 2016 Adam Shaeffer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Challenging, thought-provoking, and absolutely brilliant. Just what I'd expect from Achebe.
Jan 14, 2015 Leif rated it it was amazing
Concision without mercy; insight without cowardice: these are the heartening qualities of Achebe's essays.
Jim Booth
Thoughtful examinations of the difficulties and pleasures of being a man of letters from Africa's finest writer...
Aug 16, 2008 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-literature
A thought-provoking group of essays from the Nigerian author of THINGS FALL APART. His essay on Joseph Conrad is especially brilliant.
Nethra Ram
Mar 22, 2016 Nethra Ram rated it really liked it
I'll be frank and admit I'm no expert on Africa. I only know the little I do from what I've read about the continent and its varied cultures. But I've loved the African authors I've read, Achibe in particular. It takes class in addition to a sharp mind to present an argument and I adore the way Achibe presents his. As for being able to enter the ring and throw my own punch, I'd need a lot more education although I'm definitely not as short-sighted as Conrad.
Nov 22, 2016 Zablon rated it really liked it
Last 3 essays really hit home.
Jan 20, 2014 Marcelle rated it really liked it
Very interesting to get Achebe's perspective on global social and cultural issues. Almost all the essays are well-written, engaging and relevant (despite being written 30 to 40 years ago).
Nick rated it liked it
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Chinua Achebe was a novelist, poet, professor at Brown University and critic. He is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature.

Raised by Christian parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religion
More about Chinua Achebe...

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“Privilege, you see, is one of the great adversaries of the imagination; it spreads a thick layer of adipose tissue over our sensitivity.” 49 likes
“The writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of re-education and re-generation that must be done. In fact, he should march right in front.” 2 likes
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