ACHEBE: IMPERIALISM AND POLITICS OF THE NOBEL PRIZE

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Fighting imperialism, racism and neo colonialism is not an easy task in the world of today. Even after gaining independence, most African countries are still covertly ruled by the West. The same goes to their Prizes and Awards.

What most of us that revere Nobel Prize don’t know is that the ‘Nobel’ is a European prize and NOT an African or a global prize. It shouldn’t come to us as a surprise why Chinua Achebe who was no match to Wole Soyinka, failed to win the Nobel Prize.

Achebe is a critic of European literature demeaning Africa while Soyinka is just a Euro-assimilist. The West tried to use the Nobel to promote Soyinka more than Achebe, but Achebe’s works promoted and spoke for him.

 

Don’t misunderstand me: Uncle Wole is good, but Achebe is better!

It was during Chinua Achebe’s days in the university that he began to become critical of European literatures about Africa – contrary to what he read in high school days that made him have a dislike for Africa.

It’s believed that one of the most scathing criticisms that denied him the Nobel Prize was his criticisms of the book: : ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. Conrad was a British writer who is revered as one of the greatest novelists to write in English Language.

As a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Achebe had in February 1975, presented a Chancellor’s Lecture, titled: “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

Decrying the author, Joseph Conrad as a bloody racist, Achebe insisted that Conrad’s famous novel dehumanizes Africans and renders her as “a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity into which the wandering Europeans enters at his peril.”

At the lecture also, Achebe criticised a quote from Albert Schweitzer, a 1952 Nobel Peace laureate, which says: “The African is indeed my brother, but my junior brother.”

The lecture caused a storm of controversy with many of his white colleagues being upset by his remarks. Some were surprised that Achebe would challenge a man honoured in the West for his “reverence for life,” and recognised as a paragon of Western liberalism.

In 1986, Soyinka was awarded a Nobel prize instead of a man that became the ONLY living author in “Every Man’s Library” (by Alfred Knopf).

The Amherst lecture was later published. And in 2011 The Guardian of London named it, “One of the 100 greatest non-fiction books ever written.”

Written by

Chike Nnamani, a writer and public affairs analyst, writes for promotion of negritude.

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