Friday, 22 March 2013

Tribute to a Literary Icon: Chinua Achebe

                   Chinua Achebe (16 November 1930 - 21 March 2013)

As I sat down to write this tribute to one of the world's greatest literary legends, one of the sentences that sprang to mind was "Chinua Achebe burst onto the literary scene". But I perished the thought very quickly. Such a description would belittle the magnitude of what he achieved. Chinua Achebe's triumph was not just bursting onto the global scene, it was revolutionary.

Before the quiet, unassuming man of literature took up his pen, African literature did not have a pedestal on the global scene. The African story was filtered and told through the eyes of Europeans such as Polish author, Joseph Conrad, and other non-Africans.

Chinua Achebe did not take to whining endlessly about the warped representation of African society, he let his pen do the talking. His debut novel, Things Fall Apart, published in 1958 smashed the preconceptions of Africans as savages. His seminal piece of work wove a rich tapestry of the Igbo culture, customs and traditions (*the Igbos are one of Nigeria's ethnic groups). 

And he did not stop there, he became the founding editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series; which opened the gates for a fresh burst of literary releases on the global scene. African authors such as Peter Abrahams, Ayi Kwei Armah, Mongo Beti and Buchi Emecheta were given a voice through the AWS.

Therefore, as we remember Achebe, we do not just remember his unique mastery at telling stories, or his unrivalled literary genius, we remember a reserved, publicity-shy, literary warrior who gave not just African literature a voice, but the continent as well.

When I learned of his passing, I was saddened, but grateful for a life well spent. I was at my desk at work, but I took a few minutes to reflect  on one of my greatest literary inspirations.

It's people like him that give me the impetus to pursue my dreams with full gusto. They remind me that I must not sit on my talents. My God-given gifts must not become monuments that I put on a pedestal, without putting them to active use. People like Achebe inspire me to give my best; bring about change in my own little way; actively contribute to the world I live in.

Achebe reminds me that I must not live without leaving my footprints on the sand of time.

Chinua Achebe, you have left your footprints in the  sand of time. You paved the way for people like me to have a voice on the literary scene. You have left behind a rich array of work that will speak for you even in the next generation. Sir, you have run a good race. You have paid your dues.

Kachifo - may the day break.


  1. He certainly ran a good race and left his footprints in the sand of time, like you said. I enjoyed reading your tribute. Hopefully, I will get to read your literary / fiction work too.

  2. Thank you so much, Relentless Builder. You certainly will read my literary work very soon. Thanks again.

  3. Ah, revolutionary is the minimum word by which Achebe's literary contribution can be described.For some of us the books of Achebe represented our first introduction to writing set totally in traditional African society. The stories were interesting without being repugnant, with unpredictable endings that kept one guessing and made his novels difficult to put down. I cannot but join in in expressing my pride at an African writer who made his point and shaped a whole nation without having to shout. His special skill spoke on his behalf.
    Thanks to Fresher Angle for a well written tribute.I join in by paying my tribute as well. My one regret is that there is yet to be a single African writer that I can say is of the quality and calibre of the late literary icon. Maybe there isn't going to be need of another. For he came at the right time and age and fulfilled his part on behalf of Africans then. We should ensure that we fulfill our role on behalf of Africa, or wherever we find ourselves now!
    Thankyou Fresh Angle for a brilliant write-up!

  4. Dlaw, thanks a lot for your comment and tribute.

    Achebe was in a class of his own, no doubt. On the issue of whether there's any suitable literary talent to step into his shoes, I think the landscape has changed. Achebe had the fortune of drawing on rich cultural symbols and heritages that have largely been eroded.

    I think it's also a shame that the best writers don't get into the spotlight (in my opinion). The writers that make it to the headlines are those that have mastered the craft of publicity & marketing.

    Appreciate your comment. Thank you!

  5. Hello Oluchi.
    Well done. Pls get in

  6. Nike!!!!!! Thanks. Will give you a shout.

  7. Achebe reminds us of so many things. I love that man. I love his writings. We'll all miss him.