As a child I read his writing with passion, I loved his essays and short stories the most, because they are full of wisdom and wit, and without the urge to impress with scholarly intelligence, stories marked by an expertly wielded lightness of touch and the most compelling characters you will ever meet.
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, Nigerian novelist, poet, professor and critic. He was best known for, his first novel and magnum opus, ‘Things fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature.
Raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in South-Eastern Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school winning a scholarship for undergraduate studies.
He become fascinated with world religious and traditional African cultures, and beggan writing stories as a university student.
He gained worldwide attention for ‘Things Fall Apart’ in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer At Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A man of The People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987).
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 traditional, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. He also published a number of short stories, children’s books and essay collection. From 2009 until his death, he served as a professor at ‘Brown University in the United States.
I still cannot forget one of his short stories “in a village Church”, I read it at the age of seven. This short story combines details of life in rural Nigeria with Christian institutions and icons, a style which appears in many of his later works.
Achebe has been called “The father of modern African writing” and many books and essays have been written about his work over the past fifty years. In 1992 he became the first living writer to be represented in the ‘Everman’s library collection published by Alfred A. Knopf. His both birthday was celebrated at the University of Nigeria by “an international who’s who in African literature”. Nelson Mandela, recalling his time as a political prisoner, once referred to Achebe as a writer “In whose company the prison walls fell down”. He twice refused the Nigerian honour commander of the Federal Republic, in 2004 and 2011, saying”.
“I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance of the presidency”.
Some of his quotes I enjoy are
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has own our brothers and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart”
“My weapon is literature”.
Chinua Achebe died at the age of 82.
The biggest tribute we Nigerians can pay to Achebe is to get more familiar with his oeuvre, read his writing with passion with which we revere his person.
May his Soul Rest in Peace.