"The Gods Disapprove of the Mingling of Peoples": Conrad, Achiebe and Gordimer on the Plight of Europeans in Africa
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The quotation above, from Virgil’s Aeneid, serves to illustrate the ill-fated relationship between Europeans and Africans since the times of colonization. Literature reflects how this meeting of races has not been a successful story. Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe, now considered classic figures in the portrayal of the African plight, denounce in their work the abuse of the African population, a phenomenon which costs many lives and has since then represented the most revolting aspect of the European intervention. As we will see in this paper, the supercilious colonists, paradoxically enough, had also to undergo physical and spiritual ordeals. Conradian figures as Kurtz, Carlier or Kayerts attest to the hardships imposed on them by the hostile landscape and their own moral disintegration. Nadine Gordimer, writing at the end of the XX century, reflects how the inheritors of those European explorers, merchants and officers, now living in a post-colonial African context, are suffering a similar plight. They have become a marginal minority, feeling the rejection of the citizens of the newly-independent countries and being the easy target of the demagogy of the post-colonial rulers. Very often, they are also weighed down by the burden of the feelings of guilt over the colonial abuses or by their own futile attempts to cling to old positions of privilege.