Saturday, 23 March 2013

Things Fell Apart: In Remembrance of Chinua Achebe


Perhaps, I should be surprised at the news of Professor Achebe’s passing away. I ought to have started a series of blog posts under titles that equal the late storyteller’s previous works. If I had been chanced to come through with the intention before his death, I would have started with Things Fall Apart. Precisely, I would have written about the opinion of Nigerian youth bloggers, wordsmiths and tweeters with reference to the #Amanpour interview Mr President had on CNN several weeks ago.

Born in 1930 within the Ogidi community, the Igbo man’s works were never without a proverb from his mother tongue, interpreted in other words for the reader’s understanding. In addition to Things Fall Apart (1958), the Achebe works we will always remember include Arrow of God (1964), No Longer at Ease (1960), A man of the People (1966) and the one he wrote the year I was born, Anthills of the Savannah. Through these books and more, Mr Achebe propagated the true characteristics of Africa and Africans and attempted to correct the meretricious writings of some British authors about us. Many of those writing about Africa back then had never been privileged to wash their faces with water sourced from the African earth. So, when they wrote, they told the tale of a people they do not know with awkward contentment.

Many argue that late Achebe should have won a Nobel Prize.  Those who participate in these arguments are mainly Nigerian and African writers. And those of us who do not join in the debates are often considered shallow readers. Perhaps, we should remind ourselves that the prize of contention did not originate from Africa. Our influence in the literary world will always be honoured by the fruits of readership; prizes are secondary. Let those who give prizes give them to whom they so choose. Let those who write do so with the primary purpose of affecting lives. Let those who read books buy original copies in thanksgiving to the authors. Then, when you win a prize, you would really be surprised and think of it as a supplement.

History will continue to recognise Achebe’s political works of the 60s and 70s. The conflicts within Nigeria following the post-colonial era were penned by the renowned writer. Before his death, I heard the old man had been ill for a while. I know he was in want of staying strength. But I am sure he did what many writers would love to achieve before emptying his spirit. He wrote with passion and creativity, won prestigious prizes and died when it was time to exit the flesh. He has gone. But he has left us many gifts. His essays, novels and poems will remain with us. He has offered us wise words as alphabets and long stories the way he understood them. They will remind us of his thoughts and distractions. May we find the useful bits and apply them where they perfectly fit in; because in late Achebe’s words, “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches!”

Adieu! Professor Achebe. You are late on Wikipedia but alive in history.