Well, this is as good as I remembered. Tight, gripping story and great characterization. Okonkwo is a terrific protagonist.
Definitely seems like it's...moreWell, this is as good as I remembered. Tight, gripping story and great characterization. Okonkwo is a terrific protagonist.
Definitely seems like it's the beginning of a larger story (which, of course, it is); I'm looking forward to reading the other two books of the trilogy.
A friend said he remembered a vague uneasiness about "whether the change was "bad," "good" or just "different." [He] really was rooting for the children of Okonkwo and they seemed to have better prospects with the change." That's a fairly interesting question to bring up, and one I kept in mind as I was reading.
And sure enough, not all of the old ways are totally great. Okonkwo's friend Obierika "remembered his wife's twin children, whom he had thrown away. What crime had they committed? The Earth had decreed that they were an offence on the land and must be destroyed...As the elders said, if one finger brought oil it soiled the others." (60%) It's not easy to justify double infanticide, and Achebe doesn't try.
The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart."
This is, obviously, where the book gets its title, and I think the message is clear in the end: it's not that Africans were doing everything perfectly, it's that white interference certainly wasn't what was called for.
Again, though, I assume the next two books will explore the consequences of the white arrival in more depth - it's just started at the end of Things Fall Apart - and I look forward to reading more.
But it was only now, near the end, and far too late, that the pieces suddenly - dreadfully - clicked into place. Like a long Tetris piece slamming dow...moreBut it was only now, near the end, and far too late, that the pieces suddenly - dreadfully - clicked into place. Like a long Tetris piece slamming down, making a whole block of mystery blink and vanish. Only now did he realize what suddenly seemed so obvious: everyone who had suggested this book to him – every single one – was a middle-aged woman. This book…it was about the importance of family.
A wave of cold horror washed over him.
It would take months of porn and comic books to counteract this book’s effect. Months.(less)
I recently found myself describing this book as "the literary equivalent of tasing Bono." More or less apt, although actually tasing Bono would be mor...moreI recently found myself describing this book as "the literary equivalent of tasing Bono." More or less apt, although actually tasing Bono would be more fun.
Anyway: okay, I'm more or less convinced. Moyo makes a convincing case that aid is not helping in Africa. It fosters corruption, with billions of unsupervised dollars up for grabs, and it destroys local economies, keeping Africa in a state of helplessness. Moyo loses me a bit on the solutions end; when she talks about the international bond market, I...well, I don't really know what that means and she doesn't explain it well enough. (Your results may vary if you're not as dumb as me.) The general idea is that instead of waiting for handouts, Africa should join the global economy; Moyo points out that plenty of developing countries, including a few in Africa, have done that with much better results than relying on aid.
I wish she'd included a few case studies about specific countries in Africa, maybe some that have failed and some that have succeeded (at least a little)using different methods. Instead she refers repeatedly to a fictional country; why not be real? The book's only 150 pages long, it's not like she didn't have room.
But still: overall, she's made her case well.
Will it change anything? I doubt it. There's a lot of political work to make a change as radical as turning aid off, and there's Bono on the other side. China is way ahead of us here, and I think the most likely story is that Africa ends up pulling itself up with their help more than ours, with the result that Africa ends up more Chinese than Western at the end of the process. Which is...fine? I guess?(less)
It's gratifying to get the chance to read a book as powerful and influential as this. King Leopold's Ghost is the book that re-exposed the atrocities...moreIt's gratifying to get the chance to read a book as powerful and influential as this. King Leopold's Ghost is the book that re-exposed the atrocities Leopold committed against the Congo between 1880 and 1910 - atrocities that sank out of sight after they were finally stopped. An estimated ten million Congolese died during that time.
It's even more gratifying to find that Hochschild's book is well-written, too; it's fast, gripping and clearly laid out. Rarely, I read a book that's so important and so well-done that I feel privileged to hold it. This is one of those. Sorry to gush.
It's not perfect. Tim Jeal has argued convincingly in his biography of Henry Morton Stanley that Stanley exaggerated his own bloodthirstiness, using evidence Hochschild overlooks. The author occasionally lets his own political views show a bit more than is necessary. And more importantly, it suffers from a paucity of stories from the Congolese themselves, a fact Hochschild is quite unhappily aware of. It's not that he didn't try; it's that there are none. No extended, first-person accounts of any Congolese survive from this period. What bits exist are reproduced here, but it's not enough.
It's a tragic reminder of how easy it is to squelch the testimony of an entire people, particularly a pre-literate one. How many stories we have never, and can never hear. A reminder of how delicate history is - like a hollow eggshell - how easily crushed.(less)
What is it with modern travelogues by people who don't accomplish their missions? This was like the third book like this that I read this year. Okay,...moreWhat is it with modern travelogues by people who don't accomplish their missions? This was like the third book like this that I read this year. Okay, sure, Tayler's mission to paddle down the incredibly dangerous and volatile Congo was stupid in the first place, but still. Do it or don't, you pansy.(less)