Top 10 Postcolonial Book Quotes

1. ‘The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.’ Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy2. ‘It could be argued that it began long before Christianity arrived in a boat and seeped into Kerala like tea from a teabag. That it really began when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.’ The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

3. ‘The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.’  Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

4. ‘Nothing mattered much. Nothing much mattered. And the less it mattered the less it mattered. It was never important enough. Because Worse Things had happened. In the country that she came from, poised forever between the terror of war and the horror of peace Worse Things kept happening.’ The God of Small ThingsArundhati Roy

5. ‘That’s a pretty accent. Where are you from?’ ‘Nigeria.’ ‘Nigeria. Isn’t there a war going on there?’ ‘No.’ Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi6. ‘Just some war-torn nation, hopeless and inhuman and as humid as a war-torn nation anywhere, all war torn-nations everywhere. ‘I’m sorry,’ they’d say, nodding yes in agreement, as one says I’m sorry when the elderly die, ‘that’s too bad’ (but not that bad, more ‘how these things go’ in this world)’. Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi

7. ‘The very worst sort of war. A war that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.’ The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

8. ‘Why you wan’ the whole world when ya have a likkle piece a hope here? Stay. Stay and fight, man. Fight till you look ‘pon what you wan’ see.’ Small Island, Andrea Levy

9. ‘How do you fight an enemy who fights with neither enmity nor anger but in submission to orders from superiors, without protest and without conscience?’ The Glass Palace, Amitav Ghosh

10 ‘It was history speaking through them,’ he offers at last. ‘A history of wrong. Think of it that way, if it helps. It may have seemed personal, but it wasn’t. It came down from the ancestors.’  Disgrace, J.M Coetzee

6 responses to “Top 10 Postcolonial Book Quotes

  1. Great post, Laura. It reminds me of those postcolonial imaginings we shared all those years ago at Bristol! I think one of the most powerful I’ve read was in VS Naipaul’s The Mimic Men: “We, here on our island, handling books printed in this world, and using its goods, had been abandoned and forgotten. We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World, one unknown corner of it, with all its reminders of the corruption that came so quickly to the new.”

    I had a brilliant conversation with an Indian friend recently who argued that ex-colonizing countries need to move past their post-colonial shame as that shame unfairly perpetuates the ex-colonized subject as victim – a demeaning position, not representative of independent post-colonial states and the progress they have made. Made me think…

    • Thanks, Helen! That’s what I was thinking of, too… What a brilliant quote, ‘We pretended to be real’, I certainly remember getting a sense of that. From Derek Walcott’s poetry especially.

      I think your friend makes a very good point. Perhaps there are stages in the process of decolonisation. So one of them might have been, acknowledging the reality of what happened (as VS Naipaul does so eloquently in The Mimic Men), and maybe the next stage is, putting a stop to the perpetuation of postcolonial states as victims.

  2. Oh, this is useful. Read “Things Fall Apart” years ago and these others look interesting. I like this line: “…hopeless and inhuman and as humid as a war-torn nation anywhere…” Some good options here for my xmas book gift card.

    • Glad to hear it 🙂 Things Fall Apart was just brilliant, we read it at university. And unfortunately, in the Ghana Must Go quote, I recognised something of our own cultural heritage, and its response to these tragedies. I’d recommend Ghana Must Go and Americanah in particular, as they’re very powerful new voices on the scene.

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