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But world poets

To write well about Africa, you have to write about something else.


[Chapter] – I wanted to write about American history, says Russell Banks, one of America's most acclaimed authors. His latest book Love came in Norwegian and Pax this spring and has led critics to compare Banks with Joseph Conrad, who wrote one of postcolonialism's greatest works, Heart of Darkness. In Love follows Banks' Hannah Musgrave, who in the 1970s travels from the United States to apply again for her sons in Liberia after being away for eleven years. As a white, male writer, Banks is exceptionally close to his female protagonist, but also in his straightforward and well-considered approach to Liberia and the African continent.

- I felt that I had the right to tell this story because it was my story, says Banks over the café table in Stavanger during the literature festival Kapittel. The festival brings together a number of European, American and postcolonial authors. Many refer to Banks as the largest among them.

- Race is essential in the idea of ​​who "we" – as in European Americans – are. This is a 400-year-old story that has not yet been properly told. Most Americans believe they have nothing to do with Liberia and the Civil War of the 1980s and 90s. It bothers me.

Banks traveled up and down the west coast of Africa to get to know the people there. Since parts of the action had to take place in Liberia, he took it for granted that he had to familiarize himself properly with what and who he was writing about. When he writes about Africans – or about women – he does not think "how would she or they have thought". He thinks "what would I have thought in this situation".

- Why are Western journalists and writers so easy to portray Africa as one-sidedly poor?

- It's what Clinton said when he was asked why he entered into a relationship with Monica Lewinsky: Because I can.

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