Phi Beta Cons

Achebe Wins Booker Prize

The author of Things Fall Apart–required reading in many high schools and freshman college seminars these days–has won the Commonwealth’s equivalent of the Pulitzer.

(Executive summary of the book: Okonkwo has a lot of yams, but yams aren’t everything. And the white man is evil, and–wouldn’t you know it–killing one’s own son is a tragic act that demands cosmic redress. So Okonkwo hangs himself.)
Achebe is a self-proclaimed “cultural nationalist” also famous in the field of literary criticism for his essay on Heart of Darkness, which is noteworthy for how famous it has become in spite of pretty much ignoring the substance of the book, what Joseph Conrad’s point on colonialism was, and the historical context in which Heart of Darkness was written.
But without regard for what else he’s said, Things Fall Apart, at least, is a novel of great literary achievement: It uses words sparingly to set a tone that even its younger readers are struck by.
One bogus claim in the Guardian piece:

By honouring Achebe they have redressed what is seen in Africa – and beyond – as the acute injustice that he has never received the Nobel prize, allegedly because he has spent his life struggling to break the grip of western stereotypes of Africa.

Uh-huh. Because the Nobel committee makes a point to give the cold shoulder to those people who take on the West and “imperialism.”

Travis Kavulla is director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the R Street Institute. He is a former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners who held elected office as a Montana public service commissioner for eight years. Before that, he was an associate editor for National Review.