"With one or two exceptions, literary Africa was an inexhaustible playground for tourists and foreigners. In the works of Joseph Conrad, Isak Dinesen, Saul Bellow, and Ernest Hemingway, whether imbued with or struggling against conventional Western views of a benighted Africa, their protagonists found the world's second largest continent to be as empty as that collection plate — a vessel waiting for whatever copper and silver the imagination was pleased to place there. As grist for Western mills, accommodatingly mute, conveniently blank, indisputably foreign, Africa could be made to support a wide variety of literary and/or ideological requirements. It could withdraw as scenery for any exploit, or leap forward and implicate itself in the woes of any foreigner; it could contort itself into frightening, malignant shapes upon which Westerners could contemplate evil, or it could kneel and accept elementary lessons from its betters. For those who made that literal or imaginative voyage, contact with Africa offered thrilling opportunities to experience life in its primitive, formative, inchoate state, the consequence of which was self-enlightenment — a wisdom that confirmed the benefits of European proprietorship free of the responsibility of gathering much actual intelligence about any African culture. Only a little geography, lots of climate, a few customs and anecdotes sufficed as the canvas upon which a portrait of a wiser, or sadder, or fully reconciled self could be painted."