In memoriam across the globe: Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (pron.: /ˈtʃɪnwɑː əˈtʃɛbeɪ/, born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, 16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013) was a 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. [...]     (Wikipedia, Chinua Achebe, as of Mar. 23, 2013.)

Tributes from the blogger scene

(random selection)

Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform.

macjordan_chinua-AchebeThe above and many of Chinua Achebe’s quotes have always been a part of me since I felt in love with his style of writing. [...] When news of his passing away broke this morning, I couldn’t help but tweet some of his best quotes in remembrance of him. Below is a video of Chinua Achebe on CNN Voice of Africa and  a couple of his quotes from his numerous publications for your reading pleasure. [...] (Read on.)

Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.

Perhaps the difficulty of Chinua Achebe’s simplicity lies in its temporal fractures: Things Fall Apart asks when “things” were ever not apart. Similarly, No Longer At Ease, based on Okonkwo’s descendant, Obi, questions when “ease” was ever possible. In one register, one might say Achebe is the great master of the fractured temporalities that anchor desire, producing “tradition,” the “past,” and “before” as fetish objects saturated with wholeness. His work actively solicits our desire for something we desperately want to believe once made sense: time, motivation, action, agency. It is not that we do not understand what motivates characters – duty, despair, hope, ambition, blindness; instead, even with that understanding, we are still left longing for something more, desiring something better for Achebe’s characters and, implicitly, for ourselves. Perhaps a kind of psychic satisfaction, a story that will turn out a particular kind of way. But this is not Achebe’s task. [...] (Read on.)

littleninja-achebeYou have a responsibility to make your story known.

Dr. Chinua Achebe, the legendary Nigerian novelist, passed away on Friday. He was 82. People in Nigeria, the US and elsewhere were affected by the news. As Applause Africa stated on twitter “ The literary lion is gone. We felt it in our bones. He told our stories to the world”  What made Achebe so important to Nigerians and other Africans is that he set out to tell his own story. He described this passion in an interview on PBS News Hour in May of 2008. [...] (Read on.)

africolonialstories - achebe[...] He was teaching at Brown University in Rhode Island, as professor of Africana Studies, and Bard College in New York. He wrote a couple of dozen books in his time and received honours and awards in his country as well as the rest of the world. “Things Fall Apart” has sold millions of copies world wide, and interests me not only because it is a fantastic story, but also because it is set in pre-colonial times. The lost culture and history of Africa are very important, and have to be searched for and revived to help with the healing of the people of this continent.

The depiction of Africa as the “Third World” has always bothered me, and authors and activists like Chinua Achebe will always inspire me. [...] (Read on.)

[...] My encounter with this reverred writer was through his book, The Problem with Nigeria, that book left me with a lasting impression of one that is truly patriotic. Those problems he highlighted then and I mean over 15 years are still staring us as Nigerians in the face today. [...]

[...] Achebe was a leading figure among a generation of Africans who created a space in which they and countless others, some unborn, could exist. That space frames my existence.  It’s where I’ve lived, where I’ve cried, where I’ve imagined, where I’ve laughed.  An expanding space that continues to give voice to our myriad African lives, our realities, our concerns and our hopes.

Achebe wrote for us.  He fought for us.  He fights for us. It’s unimaginable and devastating that he’s gone. It’s affirming and comforting that Achebe lives. Chinua Achebe, damrifa due.  Nyame nfa wo nsie.

Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform.

[...] The lack of presence of the news of Chinua Achebe’s death (editor’s note: in international major media outlets) is unsettling given his contributions to the world in the forms of his activism, his texts, and his life. Lauded as the “grandfather of African literature” by the New York Times, why is the news of his death and celebrations of his life not highlighted by major news outlets? Why are photos of “Child stars all grown up” and videos about Nancy Grace’s stolen necklace more important?

[...] Achebe wrote a novel and sent it to some publishers in London through a londoner who had come to Lagos and visited the Nigerian Radio Service. In London his manuscript got rejected at many offices and was labeled as a Joke rather than writing stuff worthy to be published. Chinua Achebe Wrote His First Published Novel Titled ‘THINGS FALL APART’ In 1958 And He Became A Sensation In Literary World And His Book Started Selling Like Hot Cakes ! [...]

(1) [...] His latest book, There Was a Country, was an autobiography on his experiences and views of the civil war. The latest book was probably the most criticised of his writings especially by Nigerians, with many arguing that the professor did not write a balanced account and wrote more as a Biafran than as a Nigerian. He twice rejected offers by the Nigerian government to grant him a national honour citing the deplorable political situations in the country, particularly in his home state, Anambra, as reason. [...] (Read on.)

(2) So, the literary titan’s passing has been greeted with varying degrees of shock, regret and loss. Here are excerpts of what some people who greatly admired the great professor are saying on Facebook: [...] (Read on.)

myosan-achebeAs I cradle, and contemplate over, my copy of Things Fall Apart , my mind drifts back to vague childhood memories of discovering my father’s literature stash. My dad was a voracious reader in his day and it was evident from the variety of his book collection; from an array of James Hardly Chase books to  Alex Haley’s Roots and even The Complete Works of Shakespearemy dad could easily have opened up a neighbourhood library. And while I found many of these books amazing (I never bothered about the fat Shakespeare book though. I’m sorry but it was too hardcore for my small mind), none of them struck me more than his collection of inconspicuously adorned African Writers’ Series. I was intrigued by their cover art, which depicted figures in my likeness. I was even more intrigued by the similar (and vaguely familiar) authors’ names. [...] (Read on.)

[...] Achebe received over 30 honorary degrees from academic institutions all over the world.

Achebe was a tireless critic of Eurocentric literature that dehumanized Africans and robbed them of their dignity. He also studied the perceptions of Africa and Africans in Western education. Some scholars have suggested that he was shunned by intellectual society for criticizing other authors and the traditions of racism in the West. Despite his scholarly achievements and the global importance of his work, Achebe never received a Nobel Prize.  (Read on.)

…mediocrity destroys the very fabric of a country as surely as a war — ushering in all sorts of banality, ineptitude, corruption and debauchery,

wrote Achebe…

This observation rings true for all societies, not just Nigeria. It’s one that all writers, all artists, all workers should take to heart. Be wary of “good enough.” Be wary of those who disparage learning. Strive for perfection. Although you will never reach that goal, your work will be far better for the struggle. Rest in peace, Mr. Achebe. You have earned it.

[...] What makes him important is not just his written word but what he did with his personal life. He was an artist that lived by his words and he hated what was going on in Africa. From declining awards from presidents because of the condition of the country to writing about his frustrations; Achebe never hid his unhappiness for the way things were/are going for Africa. [...] (Read on.)

[...] Khi còn là học sinh trung học, không đồng ý với những hình ảnh, Achebe nghĩ là kỳ thị, của nhà văn Joseph Conrad miêu tả dân tộc Phi châu, Achebe và các bạn phản đối việc quyển “Heart of Darkness” được đưa vào chương trình bắt buộc đọc. Achebe chủ trương nếu bạn không thích một câu truyện thì tốt nhất là bạn nên tự viết. Trong bài phỏng vấn của tờ Paris Review năm 1994, Achebe có kể lại một câu chuyện ngụ ngôn, đại ý là trừ khi loài sư tử có những sử gia của riêng chúng, lịch sử của những cuộc đi săn luôn ca ngợi những thợ săn. [...]

When I returned to college to complete my BA, my first creative writing professor handed us a list of required reading. Things Fall Apart was at the top of that list.  Achebe was my introduction to World Literature and I have been thankful ever since…

A piece from the Guardian: Nigeria in mourning for Chinua Achebe

Do not despair. I know you will not despair. You have a manly and proud heart. A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.

– Things Fall Apart, p21

I will probably write about and long for Ghana until the day I die. Sitting on that sand bar where the Volta River meets the Atlantic Ocean,  no noise but waves and wind, I read your book, Achebe, and it made me want to write how you did, to capture the spirit of a people who will never be the same, a dying way of life on an imprisoned continent. [...] (Read on.)

[...] Mr. Appiah, a professor of African studies, found an “intense moral energy” in Mr. Achebe’s work, adding that it “captures the sense of threat and loss that must have faced many Africans as empire invaded and disrupted their lives.”

Nadine Gordimer, the South African novelist and Nobel laureate, hailed Mr. Achebe in a review in The New York Times in 1998, calling him “a novelist who makes you laugh and then catch your breath in horror — a writer who has no illusions but is not disillusioned.”

Mr. Achebe’s political thinking evolved from blaming colonial rule for Africa’s woes to frank criticism of African rulers and the African citizens who tolerated their corruption and violence. Indeed, it was Nigeria’s civil war in the 1960s and then its military dictatorship in the 1980s and ‘90s that forced Mr. Achebe abroad. [...] (Read on.)

[...] Essentially, only by remembering that we are never too young to die can we truly live our lives with the necessary focus. That said, here is a brief eulogy: A Literary giant laid finally to rest - Beyond Ibo - Beyond Nigeria - Instead for Africa - Actions are seldom remembered - Monuments seldom outlive - Words remain - But at this point words fail me - I feel what to say - But know not how to say it - Mr. Achebe - because of you - I believe - We can stop -Things Falling Apart.

  • … and many more …

A profile and collection of Achebe’s works can be found at goodreads.com.

Toni Morrison’s tribute to Chinua Achebe‘s work

TMorrison-atributetoChinuaAchebeToni Morrison discusses language and literature, the pervasive “denigration of black speech” in American literature, and the lasting impression that Chinua Achebe’s literature had on her, followed by a reading of “English and the African Writer” by Chinua Achebe at PEN’s Tribute to Chinua Achebe.

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