Saturday, 23 March 2013

Literary Icon: Chinua Achebe, RIP

Chinua Achebe: 1930 -2013
 Additional Source: Wikipedia

Nigerian literary icon Chinua Achebe is dead. Nigeria is in mourning for the great man who wrote Things Fall Apart and many other literary delights. In Things Fall Apart, he told the story of Igbo people and their traditions, painting a beautiful and unforgettable cultural landscape of what Nigeria was like Pre-Christianity and western influences.

Chinua Achebe was born on 16 November 1930 and raised by parents of Igbo ancestry in Ogidi, South Eastern Nigeria. He died on March 21, 2013 at a Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts USA. He was aged 82.

He was best known for his first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) which sold 8 million copies across the world and was translated into 50 languages, making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time. I am one of millions of students in Nigeria and all over the world blessed by the beauty of his work. The imagination and skill involved in merging deeper meanings of Igbo language and dialect with a mastery of the English language is truly a joy to behold. 

Chinua Achebe also wrote No longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). In 1975, his lecture An image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" featured a famous criticism of Joseph Conrad as a 'racist'. It was later published amid some controversy.

Achebe's novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of Western and traditional African values during and after the colonial era. His style relies heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. 

Achebe was a well known supporter of Biafra, the nation that broke away from Nigeria during the civil war in 1967 (but later seceded to Nigeria in January 1970) due to persecution of the Igbo people in Nigeria at the time. His last published book was the controversial There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. Published in 2012, it drew some criticism from many including myself due to perceived content as unfair criticism of others. Given the current situation in Nigeria with the horrific spate of killings of southerners in the northern part of the country, many of whom are Igbo, one cannot help but feel that There Was A Country is perhaps gloomily prophetic. Achebe also published a number of short stories, children's books, and essay collections. From 2009 until his death, he served as a professor at Brown University in the United States. A literary icon is gone. May his soul rest in peace. 

A Tribute to Chinua  Achebe, Literary Icon:

Chinua Achebe taught me and many Africans to be proud of who we are and to never ever forget it. The pride he gave us to love ourselves and the beauty of our identity is his legacy to many generations of Africans to come.   

- Adura Ojo