Archive - April 28, 2010

When the Right Hand Washes the Left [Part Two]

When the Right Hand Washes the Left [Part Two]

In Nigeria literature became the line of commerce between me and my students as people, a common interest and prime mover in the coming together of white American and black African. Ours was a dialogue between equals, articulate representatives of two articulate and in many ways opposing heritages. Because literature deals more directly with life than other art forms, through it I began to know Nigeria as a country and my students as friends. An idealized case history might read something like this: A student brings me a story he has written, perhaps autobiographical, about life in his village. I harrumph my way through a number of formal criticisms and start asking questions about customs in his village that have a bearing on the story. Soon we are exchanging childhood reminiscences or talking about girls over a bottle of beer. Eventually we travel together to his home, where I meet . . .

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