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The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi: A Novel Paperback – Jun 11 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 11 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375718893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375718892
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 12 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #701,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Basil Gangliaa on March 23 2001
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Japin has succeeded on all fronts with a thorough and powerful chronicle as he assumes the voice of Kwasi Boachi, an Ashanti prince who embodies mockery for the sake and hope of belonging.
The world of Kwasi Boachi, though set in an era apart, stays true to the current reality of Black existence worldwide. You may be a Black prince. You may be a Black slave. At either extreme, you, especially as a Black man, remain far below the worthiness of simple human consideration, and as such can without conflict be at once Prince Nobody and Slave Nobody. Of course, this worldview of Blacks, while tightly upholstered, does not represent an uninterrupted fabric. No man-made construction could be so perfect neither in its evil nor in its goodness. There are right-thinking men and women of all colors who do not subscribe to lies and low thoughts on this matter.
Nevertheless, in the Black case, the fabric retains an amazing consistency under its disguise as an end unto itself. However, the real game is and has always been power and money, not color. Race, however, is probably the most convenient distraction used to establish a hierarchy complete with the areas of high and low pressure necessary for fierce winds to blow. How powerful and perceptive the author's summary in opening the book: Color is not something one has, color is bestowed on one by others.
Kwasi Boachi and his friend Kwame were, in different ways, blind to this fact. Kwasi makes the fatal mistake of attempting to prove his humanity to people who are impervious to believing or acknowledging it.
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Format: Hardcover
A well researched mid 19th century histrory of two Ghanian Princes who are sent to be educated in Holland only to encounter the depths of prejudice, a prejudice which is unspoken but a governing fact. Truly accepted by a few, a novelty for many, with no one willing to acknowledge the truth. It is a miracle that today Kwashi Boachi has decendants who can know the story of their forebearer and be proud of him as a caring, sensive human being. While the early part of the book was a bit slow, I found myself wanting to learn the story of the cousins lives and the truths these lives speak to us.
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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A African Prince's Attempted Entrance Into World Of Whites March 6 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A well researched mid 19th century histrory of two Ghanian Princes who are sent to be educated in Holland only to encounter the depths of prejudice, a prejudice which is unspoken but a governing fact. Truly accepted by a few, a novelty for many, with no one willing to acknowledge the truth. It is a miracle that today Kwashi Boachi has decendants who can know the story of their forebearer and be proud of him as a caring, sensive human being. While the early part of the book was a bit slow, I found myself wanting to learn the story of the cousins lives and the truths these lives speak to us.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Why, of course, you belong here!! March 23 2001
By Basil Gangliaa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Japin has succeeded on all fronts with a thorough and powerful chronicle as he assumes the voice of Kwasi Boachi, an Ashanti prince who embodies mockery for the sake and hope of belonging.
The world of Kwasi Boachi, though set in an era apart, stays true to the current reality of Black existence worldwide. You may be a Black prince. You may be a Black slave. At either extreme, you, especially as a Black man, remain far below the worthiness of simple human consideration, and as such can without conflict be at once Prince Nobody and Slave Nobody. Of course, this worldview of Blacks, while tightly upholstered, does not represent an uninterrupted fabric. No man-made construction could be so perfect neither in its evil nor in its goodness. There are right-thinking men and women of all colors who do not subscribe to lies and low thoughts on this matter.
Nevertheless, in the Black case, the fabric retains an amazing consistency under its disguise as an end unto itself. However, the real game is and has always been power and money, not color. Race, however, is probably the most convenient distraction used to establish a hierarchy complete with the areas of high and low pressure necessary for fierce winds to blow. How powerful and perceptive the author's summary in opening the book: Color is not something one has, color is bestowed on one by others.
Kwasi Boachi and his friend Kwame were, in different ways, blind to this fact. Kwasi makes the fatal mistake of attempting to prove his humanity to people who are impervious to believing or acknowledging it. His lifelong friend, Kwame, makes the fatal mistake of fully trusting a romantic notion of culture, not realizing that his notion was incomplete, consisting of only those cultural elements that did not threaten a broader power structure. Gestalt is ugly.
Look at how this tragedy played itself out in the book and think of today's dramas in parallel. Kwasi and Kwame discover that being Black means being treated extraordinarily - extraordinarily badly or extraordinarily well, but never simply as another human being of equal standing. Worse, while the bad treatment has its obvious ill effect, the evil of good treatment manifests itself so subtly as an undertone to a warm embrace.
What is the evil present in good treatment? Well, if a Black man is held up as a marvel, it is because of the shocking truth that a monkey can read, write, and perform human tricks. If he is congratulated, it is patronage that at its height of sincerity merely approaches the professional protocol that demands recognition of obviously uncommon deeds. At its depth see Tiger Woods and Fuzzy Zoeller for a prime example:
"That little boy is driving well and he's putting well," Zoeller said. "He's doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?" Then, as he was walking away, Zoeller snapped his fingers and added, "Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."
This is the sentiment that says, "Wow, the monkey plays golf like a champion!" and gives new meaning to "greens fees". Racial prejudice is a distraction, an effective tool for stifling productive exchange and maintaining artificial but profitable differences between people. The masses of white people who maintain this system unwittingly are not compensated to the degree of their cooperation. Their pay has traditionally been "Thank God you are better than the Negro". Hardly negotiable but yet strangely satisfying. And, by definition, Blacks aren't compensated for submission - these days taking the form of inferiority complexes and sham rebellions. Now, while we both argue, someone is smiling on our trivia and counting white, black, brown, and Green money in neat, non-discriminatory stacks.
Racism alone cannot defeat a people - not by far. But, we would be silly not to recognize it for what it is and for what it does. The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi is a telling microcosm, and, in that, is much larger than black and white. However, given the role of race in public discourse, I thought it worth taking time with the racial surface of this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Race, Rank, and Rancour April 29 2012
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It sounds like a fairy tale. Two Ashanti Princes, ten-year-old boys, sent by their king in the 19th-century to be educated in Holland at the expense of the Dutch government. Installed in a boarding school in Delft, both progress with astonishing speed in their lessons, and both become frequent guests at court, becoming special friends with the young princess Sophie, and gaining access to several of the royal courts in Europe. Hans Christian Andersen even appears himself as one of the more sympathetic fellow guests at some of these occasions.

But the story is a true one. Kwasi Boachi, the son of the Asantehene (or king) of the Ashanti was indeed sent to Holland in 1837 together with his cousin Kwame Poku who, because of the laws of matrilinear succession, was actually the heir to the throne. The Dutch had important commercial interests in the Gold Coast, seeking not only natural resources but also a supply of indentured "volunteers" to replace the now-prohibited slave trade. Although couched as a goodwill gesture, the removal of the two young princes also provided the Dutch crown with a lever to ensure the continued collaboration of the Ashanti king. The irony is that, while being feted as curiosities in the manner of "noble savages," the princes were also subject to all sorts of discrimination from their schoolmates and ultimately from the state itself, who could not permit that a person of darker complexion could achieve such success as might call into question the inherent superiority of the white race; neither of them prospered once they reached adulthood. [Their rocket rise and dying fall is a very similar trajectory to that of the black violinist George Bridgetower, described so beautifully by Rita Dove in her SONATA MULATTICA.] While Kwame Poku did return to Africa, neither cousin ever saw his birthplace again. Kwasi Boachi left behind the courts of the Hague and Weimar to labor in relative obscurity in Java, where he died in 1904.

Arthur Japin's book is framed by two real photographs: one of Kwasi as a young dandy in Holland, the other of him as an old man with two of his children, taken on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival on Java in 1850. The narrative takes the reverse course, starting in 1900 and moving back through a series of extended flashbacks. Japin is wonderful at describing the different ways the two boys react to the experience: Kwasi embracing the European world despite setbacks, Kwame mourning a past that is growing ever more distant from him. But as Kwasi remarks, "The traveler is always one step ahead of his feelings. While amassing experiences of the world outside, his inner being goes to waste." Nonetheless, those new experiences are very exciting. Kwasi's discovery of the powers of language, for instance, is as thrilling as Kate Grenville's similar passages in THE LIEUTENANT, and more intellectually penetrating, for Kwasi at least is capable of standing beside some of the acutest minds of his age. Japin is wonderful in his invented episodes too, as for instance the circus that Kwasi visits incognito with Princess Sophie only to discover that the pièce-de-résistance is a so-called man-eating tribe from the African jungle. Or the many-layered back-story he constructs to explain why Kwasi's immediate superior on Java, Cornelius de Groot, was so active in holding the young prince back. Although there are weaknesses -- a rather disjointed section told entirely through Kwame's letters from Africa, and a slight loss of interest in the Javanese years -- the strength of Japin's writing and the thought-provoking subject easily move the novel up to five stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi Aug. 24 2012
By Warren - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Other reviews here outline the story, but I must add that this is one of the most well-written and insightful books I have read in recent years....especially insightful on the subject of hidden, pervasive and institutionalized racism and the sense of isolation and "separation" that it produces. Some draw strength from it and some are crushed by it; some experience both.

absolutely amazing...so well written and full of insights into the human condition. In fact, about a third of the way through I was motivated to start turning down various pages and marking passages that I found particularly insightful. It is a brilliant insight and depiction of the subtle isolation of those of us who are "different" or unique from the mainstream of our surroundings...plus the secret power of government and others on our lives as well as the subtle influence of racism. I can see why Arthur Japin is considered one of Holland's great modern-day writers....he puts so much insight into his novel. It's the best-written book I've read in many years. I intend to recommend it to many others.
Very good book! May 14 2014
By Danielle van Dinther - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nice plot. This novel is based on a real story that develops quite surprisingly throughout the years. Also an interesting reflection...

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