By Neil McEwan (auth.)
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Extra info for Africa and the Novel
But the perspective is increasingly distanced linguistically from the events; although nobody in the villages understands English and the missionaries depend on interpreters, Achebe intrudes vocabulary for which there would be no African equivalent throughout Part 2 and Part 3: 'pastor', 'parsonage', 'church', 'Sunday', 'service', 'heathen', 'Devil', 'prophets', 'temple', and 'missionaries'. 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'.
To do so he relinquished his own, joining the Father on the eve of his initiation 'when I should have met the famous serpent who watches over all the men of my race' ('qui veille sur tous ceux de notre race'). Gilbert clothes him and teaches him to read and write. 'Rien ne vaut cette n"chesse' ['nothing can be more precious'], says Toundi, a little doubtfully since he adds that he has to wear old clothing. ) By a related irony the riches of literacy give him all that he bequeathes, his record ofrejection and mistreatment by les Blancs.
If the French of Dangan seem at times unusually stupid, they are unusually brutal. Sent to prison on the faintest of suspicions of complicity in theft, Toundi is repeatedly whipped and otherwise tortured in the course of' questioning'. But the scenes of violence are more than fictional allegations because the brutality is shown to develop from indifference, and that from lack of imagination and narrow cultural assumptions. It is not that the commandant or the others think Africans less than human, although 'other people must not be looked upon as animals' is an undermining irony, and although Toundi at the end has, metaphorically, been eaten alive.