Trailblazing African Author Chinua Achebe Gave Us Much

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), April 28, 2013 | Go to article overview

Trailblazing African Author Chinua Achebe Gave Us Much


Byline: A.B. Assensoh and Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh For The Register-Guard

Africa and the literary world recently lost an icon when Nigeria-born Chinua Achebe died in Boston last month at age 82. Tributes poured in from every corner of the world for many reasons. Achebe - who was honored in life with more than three dozen honorary doctoral degrees and numerous Nigerian national and international awards - was the author of "Things Fall Apart," a 1958 classic that has been translated into more than 100 languages.

He was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, the son of Christian parents from the Igbo ethnic group in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. He later shortened his characteristically long African name, to be known as Chinua Achebe.

He was a literary contemporary of Nigeria's Wole Soyinka - who in 1986 became the first black author to win a Nobel Prize for literature - and it was often felt in literary circles that Achebe was another author worthy of Nobel Prize consideration. Many expected that it would be only a matter of time before he would receive due recognition from Stockholm. Sadly, the prize is not awarded posthumously.

It is heart-warming that, in death as in life, Achebe has been recognized by his fellow African and other international writers, led by Wole Soyinka. Soyinka and John Pepper-Clark (famous for his own book, "America, Their America") co-published a tribute in The Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom, describing Achebe's death as a loss of a brother:

"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," they wrote. The New York Times described him in its obituary as "an African literary titan."

South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela said upon his release from the Robben Island Prison, infamous for its role in apartheid, that Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" was among the books that sustained him and his fellow political prisoners. In his own tribute, he said, "There was a writer named Chinua Achebe, in whose company the prison walls fell down."

Nigeria's young but famous writer, Chimamanda Adichie, was hosted recently at the University of Oregon under the auspices of the university's Center for Diversity and Community (CoDaC). …

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