White on Black : contemporary literature about Africa /
John Cullen Gruesser.
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1992.
xiii, 181 p. ; 24 cm.
0252019164 (alk. paper)
More Details
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1992.
0252019164 (alk. paper)
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. [167]-173.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1993-05:
This wide-ranging study of the fiction and travel writing of 21 "non-black writers," outsiders depicting Africa, attempts to define their responses to emerging African nations. Gruesser (Kean College of New Jersey) judges his chosen novels (as well as the travel pieces he includes in this selection of "contemporary literature") almost solely in terms of their political thrust. He asks whether they are "fair" to Africa or not, whether those outsiders who "go native" do so in "a positive way" like the heroine of Maria Thomas's Antonia Saw the Oryx First (1988), or rather like Graham Greene's Scobie in The Heart of the Matter (1948), "go native" by "succumb[ing] to moral and spiritual corruption" just as the black African protagonist of John Updike's The Coup (CH, Mar'79) demonstrates the "corrupting effects of Africa" making the novel ultimately "a white Western male fantasy." Gruesser looks for a "true voice" among his chosen white, non-African writers whose books, written from neither an African nor a black perspective, fail to meet his political standards and are never judged by literary standards that might justify their selection. J. Sudrann; emerita, Mount Holyoke College
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, May 1993
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Unpaid Annotation
For white readers and writers, Africa was long the Dark Continent, land of Tarzan and of Kurtz. In White on Black, John Gruesser delineates shifts in the perception and portrayal of Africa over the past half-century. By the beginning of the twentieth century, three traditions of writing about Africa had been firmly established: the political assessment, the expatriate, and the fantasy traditions. Non-black fiction and travel writing about the continent since World War II comprises three generations that descend directly from these traditions and a fourth category that deliberately avoids them. After World War II, writers such as Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and Saul Bellow largely ignored the political changes occurring in the twilight of colonialism. These authors exhibited little deviation from the traditions that reached their acme as much as 60 years earlier in the works of Winston Churchill, Joseph Conrad, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. By the 1970s, V. S. Naipaul, Paul Theroux, and John Updike were more openly political than their predecessors, but their works for the most part represented adjustments to postcolonial conditions. Gruesser gives the first extended critical attention accorded in print to the work of writers of the 1980s, including J. G. Ballard, Maria Thomas, Helen Winternitz, and Jonathan Raban. These writers consciously acknowledged and actively worked to subvert established traditions. More recent novels by William Boyd, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Peter Dickinson, and William Duggan have gone further, focusing on the anomalies in the West's relationship with Africa and indicating an awareness that in order to render Africa more accurately, history itself must be rewritten.
Table of Contents
An Introduction to Africanist Discourse: Winston Churchill/Joseph Conrad/Edgar Rice Burroughsp. 1
First-Generation Postwar Writers: Ignoring Political Realities: Evelyn Waugh/Graham Greene/Saul Bellowp. 15
Second-Generation Postwar Writers: Africanist Adjustments to Postcolonial Conditions: V. S. Naipaul/Shiva Naipaul/Paul Theroux/Martha Gellhorn/William Boyd/Walter Abish/John Updikep. 45
Third-Generation Postwar Writers: Political Engagement within the Traditions: Helen Winternitz/Jonathan Raban/Maria Thomas/J. G. Ballardp. 112
Genealogical Rewriting of Suppressed History and Silenced Voices: William Boyd/T. Coraghessan Boyle/Peter Dickinson/William Dugganp. 135
Conclusionp. 161
Selected Bibliographyp. 167
Indexp. 175
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem