Library


Joyce Cary


From Mister Johnson to Mr. Cary, A.D.O.
    Anthony Kirk-Greene relates the true life experiences of the author Joyce Cary and the impact these had on his writings. He goes on to consider if the fact that Mr Cary had been an imperial servant makes his writings any more or less valuable than other authors and commentators.
Aissa Saved
Published in 1931, Aissa Saved was Joyce Cary's first published novel and was set in Nigeria where the author had worked previously. It tells the story of an African girl who converts to Christianity but finds that there are parts of her culture that she cannot leave behind. Aissa is hounded from her village when she has a son by a convict and she takes refuge in Christianity at a nearby mission. During a drought, the Christians are hunted down and Aissa is jailed as a witch, loses her child, escapes death and finally renounces Jesus. She is then persuaded by fanatic native friends to join another crusade against her village and burn their shrine. It is a shocking and provocative story which questions the role of culture and belief when civilisations collide.

Amazon

An American Visitor
Joyce Cary's second novel was published in 1932. It deals with the intransigence of the remote parts of Africa - whether indifferent, inflexible colonial attitudes or shifty, conservative locals. Somewhere outside of these are the isolated, well-intentioned, sentimental, blunderers - such as Marie Hasluck, the "American Visitor". She is a newspaper woman who believes that the noble savage is best left alone and that the white man, who comes to civilize, only contaminates. While running afoul of others, Marie finds a confederate in the local District Officer, Eustace Bewsher, who is on the verge of fulfilling an old dream of his own - federating certain districts in this obscure part of Nigeria. As the story moves towards the dashing of Bewsher's hopes, and Marie's hopes for him, the guilt with which she is left is comic and tragic, but is firm evidence of this Cary's particular perception.

Amazon

The African Witch
Cary's third novel is a strange obscure tale of African sorcery, of a blend of modern educational ideals and English political methods thrown into a mix of savagery and twists of pagan mental processes and real politik. Its hero, Louis Aladai, is a young black Nigerian nationalist and a recent Oxford graduate. He is one of several claimants to the throne of the Emirate of Rimi on the banks of the Niger. Aladai is a man of broader sensibility, and greater eloquence, than the whites around him. Aladai’s sister, by contrast, is a sorceress. The book brings together a variety of promising tensions - man against woman, modernity against tradition, Christianity against paganism, European paternalism against African resentment. It provides a graphic picture of the misapplication of British imperialism and ignorance on all sides.

Amazon

Mister Johnson
Cary's most famous book (even turned into a 1991 film). It is a tragi-comic book that tells the story of a young Nigerian who falls foul of the British colonial regime that he actually admires and loves. It is based around a road building scheme in an area of Nigeria far from the protagonists home - where he is as much a foreigner as the British. Small corrupt practices cascade out of control and Mister Johnson finds himself under the wheels of an uncaring judicial juggernaut that values African opinions less than those of Europeans.

Amazon

Cock Jarvis
Published posthumously in 1974, this unfinished novel was penned in the 1920s and 1930s but was never completed. Cary claimed to have run it through thirteen versions and a half a million words before he gave it up as unmanageable. Jarvis is an estimable Victorian crank who appears to have realized his delusions as governor of a molecule of West Africa that he had personally added to the Empire over H.M.'s objections and those of his own C.O. Also from inception he is facing his end - the C.O. is easing him out and his lady wants to be rid of him. He wrestles with his inability to control events and finds that his moral compass is pathetic when dealing with the forces arrayed against him.

Amazon




Share