Chinua Achebe, 82, Africa's voice of conscience

African Update – 23/03/13

Chinua Achebe, 82, the internationally celebrated Nigerian author, statesman, and dissident, died Thursday in Boston after a brief illness.

He lived through times of traumatic change in Nigeria and Africa. Among his many honored works, his novel Things Fall Apart has become the most widely read novel by an African.

Mr. Achebe knew both the prestige of serving on government commissions and the fear of being declared an enemy of the state. He spent much of his adult life in the United States, but never stopped calling for democracy in Nigeria or resisting literary honors from a government he refused to accept.

In traffic in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, hawkers sell pirated copies of his recent memoir about the 1967-70 Biafra war, There Was a Country.

"What has consistently escaped most Nigerians in this entire travesty is the fact that mediocrity destroys the very fabric of a country as surely as a war - ushering in all sorts of banality, ineptitude, corruption, and debauchery," wrote Mr. Achebe, whose death was confirmed by Brown University, where he taught.

His eminence worldwide was rivaled only by that of Gabriel García Marquez, Toni Morrison, and a handful of other writers. Mr. Achebe was a moral and literary model for countless Africans and a profound influence on such American-based writers as Ha Jin, Junot Díaz, and Morrison, who once called Mr. Achebe's work an "education" for her and "liberating in a way nothing had been before."

For Mr. Achebe, "the African context held the very question of human existence," said Lewis Gordon, professor of philosophy, religion, Jewish studies, and African American studies at Temple University. His works may have begun with Africa, but they broadened out to all humanity, says Gordon, "which is why Things Fall Apart is read all around the world."

Gabeba Baderoon, assistant professor of women's studies and African and African American studies at Pennsylvania State University, said by e-mail: "I'm so sad to hear about the passing of a writer we in African literature think of as a necessary and foundational figure. Professor Achebe inspired all of us to be fearless and original from the beginning."

A native of Ogidi, Nigeria, Mr. Achebe regarded his life as a bartering between conflicting cultures. He spoke of the "two types of music" running through his mind, Ibo legends and the prose of Dickens. He was also exposed to different faiths: His father worked in a local mission and was among the first in their village to convert to Christianity.

His public life began in his mid-20s, when Nigeria was still under British rule. He was a resident of London when he completed his handwritten manuscript for Things Fall Apart, a short novel about a Nigerian tribesman's downfall at the hands of British colonialists.

Turned down by several publishers, the book was finally accepted by Heinemann and released in 1958 with a first printing of 2,000. Its initial review in the New York Times ran less than 500 words, but the novel soon became among the most important books of the 20th century, a universally acknowledged starting point for postcolonial indigenous African fiction, the prophetic union of British letters and African oral culture.

Things Fall Apart has sold more than eight million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 50 languages.

He also wrote short stories, poems, children's stories, and a political satire, The Anthills of Savannah, a 1987 release that was the last full-length fiction to come out in his lifetime.

Paralyzed from the waist down since a 1990 auto accident, he lived for years in a cottage built for him on the campus of Bard College, north of New York City, where he was a faculty member. He joined Brown in 2009 as a professor of languages and literature. He used a wheelchair in his later years and said his physical problems and displacement from home stifled his imaginative powers.

Gordon pointed out that the directness and universality of Mr. Achebe's fiction also made him an important essayist: "Like Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he saw the novel as an act of courage. And he saw the essay as allowing him to speak directly to people."

Mr. Achebe never won the Nobel Prize, which many thought he deserved. In 2007 he was awarded the MAN-Booker International Prize, a $120,000 honor for lifetime achievement.

"The world will miss his courageous and mountainous talent," Baderoon said. "A world without him feels unanchored."

Link to the article on Philly.com  Chinua Achebe, 82, Africa's voice of conscience

More links :

- Chinua Achebe from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

- Chinua Achebe at Britannica.com

Upcoming AIC events
There are no upcoming events at the moment.
Book of the month

Xoliswa Ndoyiya: Ukutya Kwasekhaya

Xoliswa Ndoyiya: Ukutya KwasekhayaTastes from Nelson Mandela’s kitchen

A collection of recipes by Nelson Mandela's personal chef, this book contains the food served to visiting heads of state, celebrities, politicians for more than 20 years. Featuring some of the favourite former South African president's favourite meals including samp and beans, farm chicken, tripe, this book also features paella, peri-peri chicken, prawn curry, and myriad of other delights. With simple, delicious and nourishing recipes, it will interest those who wish to prepare meals that are both elegant and healthy.More

New arrivals

New titles in our library 12/2016

Our library has aquired a number of new and interesting books. Here is the list of the latest titles.

  • Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith
  • Fashion Cities Africa by Hannah Azieb Pool
  • Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanismby Christopher Lee
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Robinson, James A., Acemoglu, Daron
  • Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures With the Ever-Living Poet by Edward Wilson-Lee
  • A History of Modern Africa: 1800 to the Present by Richard J. Reid
  • Authentically African: Arts and the Transnational Politics of Congolese Culture by Sarah Van Beurden
  • Children in Slavery through the Ages by by Gwyn CampbellSuzanne MiersJoseph C. Miller
  • Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control by Tamara Giles-Vernick
  • Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos by Gary  Stewart
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 1: Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 2: The Modern Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Cahier d'un Retour Au Pays Natal by Aimé Cesaire
  • Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948 by Karen Elizabeth  Flint
  • Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies by Antoni Verger
  • Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry by Matthew M. Heaton
   

African information centre

Ječná 2, 120 00 Prague 2

Opening hours

Tuesday, Thursday: 2 – 6 pm

Humanitas Afrika, občanské sdružení

We're supported by:

Pokladní systémy

Hl. m. Praha Česká rozvojová agentura

Fair Trade Logo

AIC je prodejním místem
produktů fairtrade

Our partners:

  • Afro.cz