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RIP Chinua Achebe (1930 – 2013)

Update 22 Mar: The Guardian has published three tributes to Achebe that are worth reading, from Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer and Africa is a Country’s Chxta:

For us, the loss of Chinua Achebe is, above all else, intensely personal. We have lost a brother, a colleague, a trailblazer and a doughty fighter. Of the “pioneer quartet” of contemporary Nigerian literature, two voices have been silenced – one, of the poet Christopher Okigbo, and now, the novelist Chinua Achebe. It is perhaps difficult for outsiders of that intimate circle to appreciate this sense of depletion, but we take consolation in the young generation of writers to whom the baton has been passed, those who have already creatively ensured that there is no break in the continuum of the literary vocation.

Taking the Irish poet WB Yeats’s despairing statement of destruction – things fall apart – for its title, Chinua Achebe’s first novel was a presentiment of what was to come in Nigeria during the end of the colonial occupations and their aftermath. It is the founding creation of modern African imaginative literature, the opening act of exploration into African consciousness using traditional modes of expression along with those appropriated from colonial culture, particularly the English language.

Achebe’s telling of stories and his command of the English language was such that the moment you picked up a Chinua Achebe book, putting it down became almost an impossibility. His understanding of the culture of his Igbo people, my people, was also virtually unrivalled. A lot of the Igbo proverbs I learned first, I learned from his magnum opus, Things Fall Apart. However, when talking of such a giant of literature, it is plain wrong to use the phrase magnum opus to describe his work.

~ ~ ~

Albert Chínụ̀álụmọ̀gụ̀ Àchèbé, known as Chinua Achebe, widely regarded as the father of African literature, has died at age 82. He died in hospital in Boston, Massachussetts in the US after having been ill for a while. Achebe was married to Christie Okoli, and together they had four children.

Best known for the book Things Fall Apart, the world-renowned Nigerian writer was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. He was also the author of numerous books, including A Man of the People, Anthills of the Savannah, No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God. He wrote poetry and essays, short stories and also children’s books. He won numerous awards, including the Man Booker International Prize in 2007.

Achebe’s most recent book was his memoir There Was a Country. The news of his death was met with sadness, but many from across the African diaspora also mentioned their gratitude that he had represented the continent and its greatest writers so ably.

Things Fall ApartA Man of the PeopleAnthills of the Savannah No Longer at Ease
Arrow of GodThe Trouble with NigeriaGirls at WarThe Education of a British-Protected ChildChike and the River

Reports of his death circled early this morning, with the first murmurs coming from Nigerian news sources, the initial one from Premium Times Nigeria:

Nigeria’s literary icon and publisher of several novels, Chinua Achebe, is dead.
Mr. Achebe, 82, died in the United States where he was said to have suffered from an undisclosed ailment.

The news was also a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Some of the tweets from various members of the book world:

Books LIVE member Victor Dlamini tweeted that the death was confirmed by the family:

After that, local South African and international news sources released their statements:

The Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe, who first made his mark with 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, has – according to early reports – died aged 82 .

The news stories – though as yet unconfirmed – suggest he has died this morning at a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts of an undisclosed ailment.

Twitter was aflutter with rumours that Achebe died on Thursday night at a Boston hospital as fans tweeted tributes to the Nigerian writer on Friday.

It was finally confirmed to the BBC by officials.

Some well-known young Africans, including Nigerian author Helon Habila, tweeted about the loss they felt and how it impacted them:

Book details

Image courtesy Sahara Reporters


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    March 22nd, 2013 @22:51 #

    Updated to include three key pieces from The Guardian.


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