1950s, Africa, Ballad of the Reading Gaol, Chinua Achebe, colonialism, Edward Said, Hitler, Ibo, Igbo, Literature, masculinity, Mugabe, mythology, Nigeria, Okonkwo, Oscar Wilde, politics, post-colonialism, propoganda, rationality, Things Fall Apart, truth, war
“Appeals to the past are among the commonest of strategies in interpretations of the present.” – Edward W. Said
A cursory glance at unnervingly creative means of propaganda, ranging from Nazi archaeology to Mugabe’s retelling of history via “catchy jingles” on radio, supports Said’s claim. Too often, history finds itself being moulded into an ideology and vice versa.
Perhaps partly because of the reliance of history on our collective memory, the thought of this manipulation scares us – and rightly so. The implication is that in changing history, those in power to do this are also changing us. We can agree that this is a dishonest and self-servicing act. Yet, must the same moral condemnation be applied to literature which “appeals to the past” – as borderline fictitious as that may be – to suggest “interpretations of the present”?