Chinua Achebe: I Honor the Legendary Father of African Literature

We owe so much to the man whose pen propelled Nigerian and African stories into the stars, the man who gave us the voice to tell the world that we, too, have literature, and the man who allowed us to walk with lifted spirits and heads raised to the sky.

Today, we celebrate Chinua Achebe who would have been 87 years old. Google says it well:

Today’s Google Doodle Honors Legendary Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe

Chinua_Achebe_Google_Doodle

Chinua Achebe left our world much better than he found it. We owe so much to Chinua Achebe:

  • Told our stories fearlessly despite that he was just a new graduate.
  • Was authentic in writing and in REAL life.
  • Was bestowed with many titles too numerous to count: Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, critic, publisher, essayist, research fellow, university professor/educator, director of external broadcasting for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, director of two Nigerian publishing houses, and many more titles.
  • Received honorary degrees from more than 30 universities around the world.

 

  • Inspired generations of African writers and others around the world. “Achebe’s writing triggered a revolution in fiction which continues to this day. By presenting the world and history as seen through different eyes, he gave voice to the previously unheard. Achebe inspired writers in both Africa and elsewhere to tell their stories, most notably African-American Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison.”

 

  • His style was unique. His work had drama, sympathy, empathy, liquid imagery, photographic descriptions, and much more: “It gives a visual image of the Nigerian values and code of life. Chinua Achebe uses visual, aural and olfactory language to colour our senses and portray the climate, the images and the way the Ibo people react to certain scenarios. “The birds were silenced in the forests, and the world lay panting under live, vibrating heat. And then came the clap of thunder. It was angry, metallic and a thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. …”
  • Told it from the perspective of the African: In an interview with The Paris Review in 1994, Achebe explained how reading other nations’ depictions of his own, ones that described them as “savages”, inspired him to take action and become a voice for his people: There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian.”

 

  • Even at 82 years, Achebe died young: “In Achebe’s obituary in March 2013, The New York Times described the author as the person who ‘helped to revive African literature and rewrite the story of a continent that had long been told by Western voices’.” (Refinery29.com)

Before I read No Longer at Ease, I (and millions of African readers) had never known of T.S. Eliot. Chinua Achebe made T.S. Eliot famous to Africans. Imagine that!

The list just touches the tip of who Chinua Achebe was and what he contributed to humanity. We miss him, but we are richer, more intelligent, and grateful for his legacy.

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