Toni Morrison, Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton, is the author of seven novels. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. (August 2001)


On ‘The Radiance of the King’

In Western novels published up to and throughout the 1950s, Africa, while offering the occasion for knowledge, seemed to keep its own unknowableness intact. Very much like Marlow’s “white patch for a boy to dream over.” Mapped since his boyhood with “rivers and lakes and names, [it] had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery…. It had become a place of darkness.” What little could be known was enigmatic, repugnant, or hopelessly contradictory. Imaginary Africa was a cornucopia of imponderables that resisted explanation; riddles that defied solution; conflicts that not only did not need to be resolved, but needed to exist if the process of self-discovery was to have the widest range of play.