By Neil McEwan (auth.)
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Extra info for Africa and the Novel
His superior, the old hand, Captain Winterbottom, has seen a man 'buried alive up to his neck with a piece of roast yam on his head to attract vultures', and he admires the French who are 'not ashamed to teach their cultures to backward races under their charge'. But soon afterwards Winterbottom receives a memorandum on the policy of indirect rule: To many colonial nations native administration means government by white men. You are all aware that H. G. considers this policy as mistaken. In place of the alternative of governing directly through Administrative Officers there is the other method of trying while we endeavour to purge the native system of its abuses to build a higher civilisation upon the soundly 38 Africa and the Novel rooted native stock that had its foundation in the hearts and minds of the people and therefore on which we can more easily build, moulding it and establishing it into lines consonant with modern ideas and higher standards, and yet all the time enlisting the real force of the spirit of the people, instead of killing all that out and trying to start afresh.
These alien terms, which emphasise a division within the lbo people, would of course have been familiar to an elder of Ache be's day, but they culminate in the last words of the novel which provide the District Commissioner with the title of the book he is planning: 'The Pacifz"cation of the Pn"mz"tz"ve Tribes of the Lower Nz"ger'. British English at its most assertive is given the last word by a narrator who is about to celebrate the end of British rule, and who is plainly seen at last as a Nigerian for whom the dangerous, unpredictable white man is no more than a typically shortsighted late- Victorian colonial officer whose book, or one like it, today gathers dust on the British Council shelves in Lagos.
Another concerns the tribal instincts of the whites. , when confronted with danger to its own interests in another. Oyono is a better satirist because his comedy and indignation do not stifle his feeling for the sadness of the colonials' predicament. The French will not allow Monsieur Salvain to make a comparison between the morals of Dangan and Paris. They tell him that he will teach the Danganais to think themselves as good as their protectors - 'as if they hadn't got a high enough opinion of themselves already' - and so threaten the French empire.