Why I admire Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

African Update – 09/06/13

The great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe quoted the Czech writer Milan Kundera´s comment: „ The novel is an investigation into human existence…(It) proclaims no truth, no morality…“ (New York Times Book Review, 24 October  1982) and in his essay The Writer and His Community (Hopes and Impediments, Heinemann , London 1988, p. 37) he added: „If Europe discovered relativity in human affairs rather late, does it follow that everybody else did? And finally, can anyone seriously suggest that the novel proclaims no morality?“

And then, a few lines below, Achebe explains: „… we cannot simply dismiss the desperate plea of Milan Kundera, an artist speaking out of the experience of an authoritarian state that arrogates to itself powers to define truth and morality for the writer. No! We must recognize his special exigencies, or, as he himself says, how relative human affairs really are.“ (ibid., p. 37-38)

I remember that having read Jiří Valja´s translation of Achebe´s No Longer at Ease (original 1960, Czech translation 1964), I wished to deal with the Nigerian classic´s other masterpieces. The fascinating and highly topical novel A Man of the People (original 1966, Czech translation 1979) had had to wait for seven years before it was published as Achebe´s satirical criticism of a demagogical politician´s manners could easily lead Czech readers to searching  for analogies in  Prague. Under the existing circumstances,  nearly everybody feared to grant any ideological aegis in the 1970´s.  In the days of our „velvet revolution“ (November 1989), I attended a ceremony at the University of  Ibadan  (Achebe was among its first graduates in the early 1950´s) where the great writer obtained an honorary doctor´s degree. Chinua.Achebe then invited me to spend the same evening in his private house together with his family. I cannot forget his smile over the little hook hanging over the Czech letter z (the English spelling is zh) in the Czech word muž (man). And of course, with this little present of mine he introduced me to his realm of creative art. I was proud of translating from English into Czech also his famous novel Things Fall Apart (1958, Svět se rozpadá, BB art, Praha 2003). But I do like also Achebe´s other books, e. g. his novels Arrow of God (1960) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987), collection of short fiction Girls at War and Other Stories (1972), his essays Morning Yet On Creation Day (1975) and his children´s books. I devoted a lot of attention to the writer´s works in Modern Nigerian Novels (Academia, Praha 1969) and elsewhere. From the very beginning I respected Chinua  Achebe´s perfect formulations, including his puns, occasional Igbo words and Pidgin English in some dialogues. I have always been greatly pleased and honoured to make Chinua Achebe´s art better known in my country and I will never forget him and his humanistic message.

Vladimír Klíma(former ambassador of Czech Republic to Ghana)

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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.

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  • 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
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  • 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

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