A Literary Hero Departs Our World
I started 2013 with Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country. It remains for me the most authentic account of the events of the Nigerian civil war. I like to think that, in reading his memoir, I also got to know a little about Mr Achebe himself. He had already earned my deepest respect as a writer, as I had grown up reading his books (Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, and A Man of the People) but one learns more about Mr Achebe’s own strength of character in reading his final memoir. He was an indefatigable champion of African literature – as a key player in the creation of what would become the African Writers Series, a group that would galvanize a number of well known writers on the continent to prominence. He also had a strong sense of family – reading about how he was able to hold his family together in a time of war when families are often torn apart is not only inspiring, it is heartwarming. An account of the road he took to publish his best known piece of work – Things Fall Apart – which would go on to sell millions of copies and be translated into more than 50 languages, gave me renewed respect and also a great deal of gratitude for this beautiful mind that would carve a path for many of us who would call ourselves African writers. As the grandfather of African Literature, he was not just the continent’s literary hero, he belonged to the world. We mourn a great loss but also celebrate a rich and meaningful literary legacy which we can all strive to live up to.
Fare thee well, Chinua Achebe