An important collection from distinguished Nigerian writer Achebe (Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, Anthills of the Savannah, etc.) that reflects Achebe's literary interests as much as his concern with racism in western responses to Africa. Satisfyingly free of cant, and always sharp-eyed, Achebe examines in essays such as ""An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's The Heart of Darkness,"" ""Colonialist Fiction,"" and ""Impediments to Dialogue Between North and South,"" the underlying racism that permeates so many westerners--even the most well-intentioned--towards Africa and things African. Like Conrad, they find it difficult to see Africans as autonomous individuals, as varied and complex as all other peoples, preferring instead to see them and the continent through a ""haze of distortions and cheap mystifications."" Achebe's arguments are just and salutary. Other essays, like ""Thoughts on the African Novel,"" ""The Novelist as Teacher"" and the eloquent ""Truth of Fiction,"" are more literary in content but clarify Achebe's position as an African living in Africa but writing in English--a fact that has been controversial sometimes in his native Nigeria, where he has been criticized for not writing in an African language. Personal memories of other writers like the late James Baldwin, and further pieces on art and literature complete the book. Achebe is neither strident nor polemical--and though he has a mischievous sense of humor that agreeably balances the seriousness of his arguments, his plea for an unbiased and unprejudiced look at Africa is both timely and necessary. A fine and significant collection.