Monday, 17 August 2009

The Joy of Reading

One of the pleasures of my life is browsing in bookshops, especially second-hand bookshops where the chance of surprise delights is highest. There is an extra anticipation and pleasure in the exercise since I became a political rebel: in older books you often find perspectives and language forbidden to today’s authors. On Saturday I found a book whose title and jacket-blurb provide an example (see below), it was published in 1978, the same year this statement appeared in The Times:

We, as library workers, agree that it is a major function of librarianship actively to combat racism and fascism and we advocate the following: that stock selection for libraries should be guided by anti-racist and anti-fascist principles. That staff recruitment should reflect a similar policy. That local authority buildings should not be used for racist or fascist organisations.

-- ‘Librarians against Racism and Fascism’ quoted in The Times, 30 May 1978.

I daresay the purchasing and repository power of libraries contributed little to the survival of the book I picked up on Saturday. Still, it did survive for me to buy it and I had to buy it just to have proof of the author’s bibliography - it’s hard to believe books with such titles were published in the 1970s. From the jacket:

The Return: Homecoming of a Negro from Eton by Dillibe Onyeama

This is a gripping account of a cultural shock. The author had the rare privilege of being one of the first Africans to be educated at Britain’s exclusive public school Eton College, the result being his resoundingly successful Nigger at Eton.

After eighteen years of ‘Anglicisation’ since he first came to Britain in 1959 aged eight, he visits his home Nigeria, reputed to be Black Africa’s most progressive nation and, by virtue of its oil, a potential super-power and one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

But Onyeama is shocked to discover that the glamorous pictures painted of his country by the Western media are totally false and merely subtle attempts to protect Western investments in the vast nation. He is horrified to find his home in a state of chaos and retrogression.

Here, in this brief but comprehensive story of his experiences, he paints a vivid and concise picture of poverty, deprivation, callousness, corruption, primitive existence, slavery, fear, suspicion and jealousy on a scale witnessed in very few countries in the world.

In his attempts to explain this tragic state of affairs, he offers remedies to thwart the very real threat of communism facing the country.

He reveals, too, that he is one of ‘thousands’ of relations descended from a Chief said to have had fifty wives and seventy-eight children. He tells how he coped with the widespread jealousy of his privileged circumstances, the intrusive curiosity of many of his folks, the impossible expectations they imposed on him.

He explains, also, what prompted him to take a white wife in the face of widespread opposition from his relatives, he tells what occurs when he took his wife home and how she adapted to the many primitive habits and customs of his underprivileged countrymen.

This is the fascinating story of one educated African’s cultural dilemma in a major African nation of today.

By the same author

Nigger at Eton

John Bull’s Nigger

Sex is a Nigger’s Game

The Book of Black Man’s Humour

I’m the Greatest: The Wit and Humour of Muhammad Ali



The Secret Society


Innocent days.

No comments: