The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe

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The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luci Davin
Reviewed by Luci Davin
Summary: A collection of autobiographical essays by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. Topics covered include Nigerian, Biafran and Igbo history and culture, African literature and the legacy of colonialism in his country and the rest of Africa. Highly recommended
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Allen Lane
ISBN: 978-1846142598

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This book is a collection of autobiographical essays by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, whose best known work is the novel Things Fall Apart, published in 1958. Topics covered include Nigerian, Biafran and Igbo history and culture, African literature and the legacy of colonialism in his country and the rest of Africa. Some of the essays are taken from guest lectures at universities around the world and conference papers, and others are written for this book, particularly many of the more personal pieces about Achebe's family.

The title essay is about Achebe's school and university education in Nigeria, which remained a British colony until independence in 1960. His first passport in 1957 defined him as a British Protected Person. He is scathing about the language of colonial rule:

In my view, it is a gross crime for anyone to impose himself on another, to seize his land and his history, and then to compound this by making out that the victim is some kind of ward or minor requiring protection.

At this point I did think of how the language of protection is still being used to justify British foreign policy abroad.

Achebe's descriptions of his experiences of going to school, and of some of his more memorable teachers at both school and university, are fascinating.

Some of the other essays are about the history of Nigeria but often with a very personal flavour, for example, an essay about growing up with the legend of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Africa. There are some quite harsh words about European writers' portrayal of Africa, and the creation of images of the continent used to justify colonialism, in books by John Buchan and Joseph Conrad.

These are interspersed with more personal essays about being a Nigerian/African writer, and pieces about his family. I was particularly struck by My Daughters, in which he buys his child a book and then finds it to be very racist, so he turns to writing his own book for children and finding this to be more difficult than he imagined.

I thought this collection of essays by a great African writer might be quite challenging reading but something I could learn from, and other books I have read recently have made me want to learn more about Nigeria. I found the book very educational and informative, but at the same time, extremely accessible and easy to read. Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

My further reading plans include Things Fall Apart and Chinua Achebe's novels. I recommend all of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's work – you can read a review of Half of a Yellow Sun here. Other collections of essays include Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind and Arundhati Roy, Listening to Grasshoppers.

Buy The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe at Amazon.com.


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Erasmus Ndulue said:

The review of 'The Education of a British Protected Child' in Bookbag was intellectually stimulating. The review was balanced, but one cannot completely rule out some sort of emotional attachments to Achebe by the reviewer. The reviewer did point out the flaws in the autobiographical collections with unassuming candour. Unlike a few uninformed reviewers of Nigerian extraction who used harsh words to condemn the obvious repetitions in the book, the bookbag reviewer interrogated such flaws with a great presence of mind that would make even keen readers gloss over the structural weaknesses with ease. Ofcourse, no work, literary or otherwise, is perfect. I must, however confess, that I was astounded by the rave reviews of this latest offering by Chinua Achebe in almost all the major dailies and sites in the world.


Erasmus NDULUE Lagos, Nigeria.