|About the Book|
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 twentiethMoreFor 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 Wests relationship with Africa and indicating an awareness that in order to render Africa more accurately, history itself must be rewritten.