The Case for African Freedom, and Other Writings on Africa

The Case for African Freedom, and Other Writings on Africa

The Case for African Freedom, and Other Writings on Africa

The Case for African Freedom, and Other Writings on Africa

Excerpt

Joyce Cary's profoundest reflexions on Africa are contained in his novels; the five pieces included in this volume may be read as a supplement to them. The Case for African Freedom, published in 1944 (an expanded version of a pamphlet published in 1941), and Britain and West Africa, published in 1946 and republished in 1947, are already historical documents. They speak to us from a vanished world. When in 1944 Cary used the phrase "the African powers" he meant the European powers controlling Africa: today the phrase could mean only the independent African states, over twenty of them, scarcely even dreamed of in 1944. When he wrote the sketch of West African history included in Britain and West Africa he began with the Europeans who intruded there, as if West Africa had not existed until Europeans noticed it--a viewpoint no serious historian (nor Cary himself were he still alive) could conceivably adopt today. Then, however, it seemed obvious, even inevitable.

Yet, though the African scene has changed immeasurably, these two pieces still illuminate it. They also have real historical value. Cary, one of the finest British novelists of this century, entered the administrative service in Northern Nigeria as a young man in 1913. He served in West Africa until 1920, when he retired from ill health. He revisited the country briefly during World War II, when he was stranded there on his way to Tanganyika, where he helped to make the film Man of Two Worlds. Several of his early novels--Aissa Saved, The American Visitor, The African Witch, and Mister Johnson--have a Northern Nigerian setting. Mister Johnson, the best of them, is one of the most moving and perceptive pictures of the British colonial situation ever made.

In these two pamphlets he expounded his vision (the word "blueprint" he explicitly repudiated) of West African development--a rare example of the creative artist working in a political and economic field. Britain and West Africa, the shorter of these works, was written to in-

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