MISTER JOHNSON by Joyco Cary
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MISTER JOHNSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The baffling, erratic demands made upon the meticulous order of British Colonial civilization by the gloriously oblique disorder of a more primitive, fluid African society is alternately tender and acrid in its treatment by the author of The Horse's Fouth and Herself Surprised Mister Johnson, seventeen-year-old native of Fada, a small outpost town in Western Budan, and third-class clerk in the British government office there, was essentially a poet, meeting with tremulous admiration and devotion the exactions that duty, love and life in general made upon him. It was the fervor of his admiration for his mildly confused British superior, Rudbeck, which resulted in startling re-adjustments in Rudbeck's stolid Colonial Office orientation. Appropriating Government money for a favorite road-building project by some left-handed accounting did not seem so outrageous to Rudbeck under the influence of the buoyant intimacy of African politics. Yet in spite of his growing appreciation of the inadequacy of an alien rule to encompass African needs, Rudbeck finds himself the final instrument for Johnson's death and a useless factor in African life. This story of the flamboyant career of a passionate, naive and absurdly cavalier human being -- his busy monetary projects, magnificent social affairs, ardent wooing of a glum native beauty, moments of exaltation or deepest gloom -- is the ultimate tragedy and comedy of the conflict of man and institutions at the most acute point of tension. Exquisitely written, salted with irony and sardonic humor, this is for the Cary followers who delight in telling off-beats.

Publisher: Harper