The Black Notebook
It goes without saying that typical characters in art differ from scientific concepts of types in content, and accordingly, in form. Hence, when this author quotes at the beginning of her book a saying which, redolent as it is of Western sociological mumbo-jumbo, nevertheless contains a profound verity: ‘It is said, it was because Adam ate the apple that he was lost, or fell. I say it was because of his claiming something for his own, and because of his I, Mine, Me and the like’ — we look at her work with an eager expectation which is not justified. Yet let us welcome what she has given, looking forward with hope to what she might, indeed will, give us, when she comes to understand that a true artistic work must have a revolutionary life — asserting content, ideological profundity, humaneness, as well as artistic quality. The feeling grows, as page follows page: How noble, how truly profound must be the human types evolved by this still undeveloped continent; the feeling remains with you and repeatedly evokes a response in your heart. For the young English flier, and the trusting black girl, never-to-be-forgotten as they are, thanks to the author’s entrancing power, are not yet typical of the deep moral potentialities of the future. Our readers say to you, dear author, with one voice: ‘Work on! Remember that art must ever be bathed in the clear light of truth! Remember that the process of creating new concrete forms of realism in the literature of Africa and in general those of underdeveloped countries with a strong national-liberation movement is a very difficult and intricate process!
(Review of Frontiers of War in Soviet Journal for Literature for Colonial Freedom, dated Dec., 1956.)
The struggle against Imperialist Oppression in Africa has its Homers and its Jack Londons. It also has its petty psychologizers, not without a certain minor merit. With the black masses on the march, with every day a new heroic stand by the nationalist movements, what can we say of this novel which chronicles the story of a love affair between a young Oxford educated Britisher and a black girl? She is the only representative of the people in this book, and yet her character remains shadowy, undeveloped, unsatisfying. No, this author must learn from our literature, the literature of health and progress, that no one is benefited by despair. This is a negative novel. We detect Freudian influences. There is an element of mysticism. As for the group of ‘socialists’ portrayed here, the author has essayed satire and failed. There is something unhealthy, even ambiguous in her writing. Let her learn from Mark Twain, whose wholesome humour is so dear to progressive readers, how to make mankind laugh at what is already dead, backward, outmoded by history.