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Mister Johnson

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  273 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Johnson, a young native in the British civil service, is a clerk to Rudbeck, Assistant District Officer in Nigeria, and imagines himself to be a very important cog of the King's government. He is amusingly tolerant of his fellow Africans, thinking them uncivilized; he is obsessed with the idea of bringing "civilization" to this small jungle station. Johnson loves the white ...more
Mass Market Paperback
Published 1961 by Berkley Medallion Books (first published 1939)
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Community Reviews

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Laura
Aug 16, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
From IMDb:
In 1923 British Colonial Nigeria, Mister Johnson is an oddity -- an educated black man who doesn't really fit in with the natives or the British. He works for the local British magistrate, and considers himself English, though he has never been to England. He is always scheming, trying to get ahead, which lands him in a lot of hot water.


Another buddy matinee with dear friend Bettie, watching another movie with Pierce Brosnam.
Raymond
Nov 17, 2008 Raymond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Johnson, a Nigerian menial in a time when Britain was still a colonial power, is a rascal, a conniver, an idler who dedicates himself to ingratiating himself with others. He ingratiates himself with those who read his story.
At the outset, it can appear Joyce Cary is sketching a caricature of Uncle Tom. Mr. Johnson is shrewd, however. As we come to know him we gain insight into how African people came to gain a grip on their own lands and how Britain began to lose its grip. There is no other
...more
Czarny Pies
Mar 15, 2015 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Des francais car ils sont pris avec trop d'analyses marxistes
Recommended to Czarny by: Le professeur Robert Bothwell
C'est sans doute le meilleur roman que j'ai lu de ma vie sur les rapports entre les individus de races différentes dans une societe coloniale.

Mister Johnston est une fable qui illustre les résultats tragiques quand deux hommes (un colonise africain et un colonisateur britannique) de bonne volonté et d'energie depassent les limites permises par les convenances sociales de la societe coloniale. Plus specifiquement, les deux hommes rentrent dans une collaboration trop etroite selon les regles de l
...more
Theophilus (Theo)
I saw the movie, with Pierce Brosnan, many years ago and had been meaning to get around to reading the book. I'm glad I finally did. When I mentioned the movie to an African friend of mine back in 1998 she hissed, "that is one of the most racist books." That statement probably kept me from reading it for so long. It is racist, but I have read much worse, like the early to mid 1960s books about plantation life by Kyle Onstott. Mister Johnson does very little character analysis, but a lot of narra ...more
Sylvester
Jun 26, 2010 Sylvester rated it it was amazing
I read this so long ago that the details have faded out of mind, but I remembered loving it, underlining passages (in a library book, no less), laughing my head off at some of the dialogue, and having a troubled sense of where the story was headed. Which is why these reviews puzzle me - so serious and so depressing. Leafing through it now, I still remember only the sheer delight of the wonderful character development and description, and the biting cleverness of the writing. Perhaps I should thi ...more
Chrissie
Mar 28, 2016 Chrissie rated it liked it
I have read this but I ought to reread it since ALL that I remember is I liked it quite a bit. Why I do not remember.
Lisette
Jul 31, 2013 Lisette rated it did not like it
Yes, I know Cary was a part of the colonizing British empire and, yes, I know he attempted to show the harmful ramifications of colonialism but his incessant talking AT the Igbo characters, which resulted in cringe-worthy racist characterizations, is painful and horrific to read. Yes, I know the historical context in which Cary wrote and, yes, I'm fully aware I'm applying a 21st century perspective but I have never been as happy finishing a book than I was when I finished this one. Thankfully, I ...more
Frumenty
Apr 15, 2015 Frumenty rated it liked it
Mister Johnson was published in 1939, and draws on Cary's experience while serving in the British Colonial Service in Nigeria in the years following the Great War. It is an easy and entertaining read, and I finished it within just 24 hours. Cary appears neither to applaud nor deplore colonialism, but to accept it as a simple fact of life; I'm quite comfortable with that. He is an acute observer of character and personal relationships, and appears to have a good grasp of his subject matter, so th ...more
Karen
Jul 11, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read
* 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list

Selected by the Guardian's Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.
F Clark
Jun 21, 2013 F Clark rated it really liked it
On the one hand, like his other African novels, Mr Johnson has what seems to me to be racist features. Given the context of Cary's time and place, I suppose this is to be expected. In his introduction to the Time Reading Program edition (which intro contains unnecessary spoilers, in my opinion), V. S. Pritchett makes the point that Cary's white colonists are just as ridiculous as his African natives.

Although Mr. Johnson appears at first to be a caricature, he is ultimately a deeply human and de
...more
Andrew
Aug 29, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The West African setting is perfectly captured for English readers - but the story of the upwardly-mobile Johnson is bitter-sweet & poignant. A man caught in the abyss between his native cultural ties & the new perspectives offered by so-called 'civilised' values. A rare excursion by a European writer into a complex dilemma of many colonial Africans in the last days of empire.
Linda Watkins
Mar 03, 2016 Linda Watkins rated it really liked it
This was a hard book to read. I kept having the sense it was all going to go bad in the end even though there was a lot of humor & funny spots. Colonialism of Africa in the early 1920s & how there was so much potential for the simplest things to bad. It's part of what happens when there is so much difference between the haves & the have nots & when cultures are so incompatible.
Jessh093
Aug 20, 2016 Jessh093 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the interesting complex character and plot development, tells a lot about different imperial master/slave relationships. It was sad and enjoyable
Jen
Apr 18, 2016 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An uncomfortable tale of clashing cultures in the time of the British Empire. Very much an individual's story but one that tells the story of entire tribes and nations. A comic narrative with a tragic undercurrent.
Ali
Mar 10, 2008 Ali rated it liked it
This is a difficult book to describe - at times I enjoyed it, but I frequently became depressed by it. Originally published in 1939, the language is dated, and would be considered offensive now, but it pefectly highlights how Africans and their white bosses spoke to one another, and how each was viewed by the other. Johnson, an irrepressible character, who it's is hard not to like instantly, is set on a collision course with disaster. Johnson is quite childlike, in his eternal optimism and his r ...more
R.K. Cowles
3 1/2 stars
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda
Oct 03, 2012 Linda rated it liked it
Published in 1939. Set in early 1900's during British colonial rule in Nigeria. A very racist portrayal of African peoples and culture, but an interesting picture of how things worked in the colonial administration. His insightful analysis of the complex motivators of the main British character contrasts sharply with the buffoonish portrayal of all the Africans in the novel. Recommended as an example of racist colonial literature about Africa.
Debbie Windley
Sep 19, 2010 Debbie Windley rated it really liked it
This is a difficult book to read in 2010 as the portrayal of Mr Johnson as a simple, comical native would seem to be offensive as is certainly the language. Yet all the characters in this colonial farce are equally ludicrous, self obsessed and trying to make the best for themselves out of the incompatability of the 2 cultures. essentially a comedy but an illuminating one.
Phillip
Jul 28, 2011 Phillip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
A fun read, Mister Johnson is a likeable buffoon with delusions of grandeur, who doesn't quite realize that he is not fully human within the colonial system. Overly ambitious and moody, Johnson is a fun character, if not fully believable. Cary's text is revelatory of colonial conceptions of the 'native' as alternately buffoon and savage.
Sam
Sep 25, 2013 Sam rated it did not like it
We read this book in my college geography class, and it is extremely racist. None of the information in this book is even remotely accurate, and my teacher from Ghana was highly offended. He says it depicts African culture as rudimentary, and honestly I have to agree with him. I know its a classic, but it supports horrible ideas.
Jack Goodstein
Mar 29, 2011 Jack Goodstein rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Although Cary is as critical of the British in Africa as he is of the natives, there is certainly a question of poitical incorrectness here. Still in the end, in the clash of civilizations, everyone comes off poorly.
Kelly
Jan 09, 2012 Kelly rated it liked it
It's a quick, fairly enjoyable read, but Mister Johnson's character at times feels too much like a caricature... But then again, it is a book about an African written by an Englishman. I suppose you'll have that.
Beatles1964
Jun 21, 2012 Beatles1964 rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature
Unfortunately had the displeasure to read this book at school. Would be the most BORING book I have ever read.
GT
Dec 27, 2008 GT rated it really liked it
Remarkably fresh though entirely of it's time.
John
Jul 08, 2013 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Empire has a lot to answer for!
Alan Fricker
Feb 02, 2013 Alan Fricker rated it liked it
Charity shop random pick
BookDB
BookDB marked it as to-read
Sep 30, 2016
Meo Con
Meo Con marked it as to-read
Sep 28, 2016
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Cary now undertook his great works examining historical and social change in England during his own lifetime. The First Trilogy (1941–44) finally provided Cary with a reasonable income, and The Horse's Mouth (1944) remains his most popular novel. Cary's pamphlet "The Case for African Freedom" (1941), published by Orwell's Searchlight Books series, had attracted some interest, and the film director ...more
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