Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chinua Achebe, Nov. 16, 1930 - Mar. 21, 2013

For now the fact that one of the doyens of Africa's men of letters, Chinua Achebe, is dead is no longer news. ImageNations intentionally kept off the fray of all the earlier expressions of condolences. Yet, it would not be absolutely right to stay off forever. For most non Africans the only African book they have read and to which they will quickly refer a reader is  Things Fall Apart and the fact that the book was translated into 50 languages and was made a reading requirement also worked to boost its popularity. However, my favourite novel of his is Arrow of God. The third book in what later became known as the African Trilogy, which comprised the two mentioned books and No Longer at Ease. There are several Africans who have also not read beyond TFA; though I will appeal to them to read the others.

My favourite proverb in his book goes like this 'the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.' This proverb is profound. There is no one who has read any of Achebe's book and can't quote you a favourite proverb or two. Achebe's achievement is so glaring that one needs not to repeat them. Even if he hadn't won anything at all, there are several novelists today who were inspired by him including the veritable Chimamanda Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. He will be sorely missed but then death is an end that will come for all. The question is his place in the literary culture in Africa and the world is forever etched. Achebe's Books Reviewed Here on ImageNations:
  1. Things Fall Apart
  2. No Longer at Ease
  3. Arrow of God
  4. Anthills of the Savannah
  5. A Man of the People
  6. The Trouble with Nigeria
  7. Contemporary African Short Stories (as an Editor)
His books are deceptively simple to read but has complex political and socioeconomic underpinnings. The only regret is that he never got to win the Nobel; sure tells you something about awards. Fare thee well, Achebe. Damirifa due. This is a picture of Achebe two years after his debut novel, TFA.


  1. I hadn't heard of these news. I never read Achebe, save for his infamous essay on Conrad, which struck me as mean-spirited and unfair on Conrad. But I've been curious to read his fiction, I understand he was very important and a pioneer in African literature.

    1. Try him. Some will say Things Fall Apart but I will ask you to read Arrow of God. I've not read that essay but I will never say 'mean-spirited'.

    2. Miguel dear,
      you misunderstood the whole concept. There is nothing mean-spirited whatsoever about Chinua Achebe. I'll recommed you read "The Education of a British-protected Child" by Chinua Achebe. It is a collection of essays. below is a link to my review.

      You will be enlightened!

      Good luck.

  2. Nana, this is well stated. You are so right about the Nobel.

    1. Have you read Wole Soyinka? He won the Nobel for Nigerian instead of Achebe; how do you think he compares against Achebe?

    2. No, although I have seen a performance of Death and the King's Horsemen - ferocious.

      I reject the notion that there is only room for one Nigerian Nobel!

      European and American readers owe Achebe a debt for his role as advisory editor (without pay!) of the African Writers Series. A lot of African books are still only available in those old Heinemann editions.

    3. Thanks Tom, I've always believed that he deserved that award. But he won the Man Booker International for his entire oeuvre.

  3. i agree with you on the whole. I am also guilty of having read the trilogy only last month. My favourite is "No longer at ease", but I really like "Arrow of God" too. Just brilliant. I think one of his legacy is the fact that his books are timeless. They were written 30 years ago, yet when i read them last month the theme were still very much current. RIP Achebe

    1. Yes, they are (timeless). He's left enough legacy.

  4. Nana, I have long been crying. I have plagued my facebook page and twitter with Chinua Achebe.. interviews.., essays, and so on and so forth.

    I can never cry enough. Now I am wondering what would become of us now that he is gone. As you mentioned, none of us is here forever. Prof. Achebe ahs done his part, it is up to us to continue from where he left.

    That man was a warrior. A literary warrior, indeed. May his soul rest in peace.

  5. Indeed, he will forever be remembered as the father of African literature. And to think that he never won the Nobel is a shame to the organizers. I am proud to say that I've read almost all his books. May his soul rest in peace.


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