Chinua Achebe: The Lion Sleeps Tonight

on Saturday, March 23, 2013
I was very saddened this morning to hear of the death of Chinua Achebe. Often called the grandfather of African literature (a descriptor that I find insulting, but never mind), he was undoubtedly one of the main players in bringing writing from that part of the world into the popular reading consciousness. I have only read two of his works - Things Fall Apart (of course) and A Man Of The People. Both were amazing. It is sad that it will take his death for me to delve further into the back catalogue. Luckily I have several more of his books on my shelf, including the last one published in his lifetime, a memoir of the Nigerian Civil War.

Although he never won a Nobel Prize, Achebe did win the second ever Man Booker International Prize. It might seem only a small consolation, but there is a strong case to be made for the International Booker being more meaningful given that it routinely picks much more deserving candidates than its Swedish counterpart (Ismail Kadare and Philip Roth, both of whom ought to have won the Nobel by now, have also been recipients).

Achebe was one of the last in a generation of great writers. Sad to say we are losing them faster than we are producing 'replacements'. His contribution to world literature cannot be understated, and at only 82, I suspect he still had much to tell us. Rumour has it there is still a novella to come. I hope that's right. I'm not quite ready to say goodbye.


Evan said...

No Longer at Ease is a goodie too - a sequel, of sorts, to Things Fall Apart (Okonkwo's grandson is the protagonist), but primarily focusing on political corruption in newly-independent Nigeria.
People overlook the fact that Achebe, as well as being a key figure in African English-language literature, was a superb stylist. His prose is a pleasure to read - crisp and polished, with nothing extraneous.

Bram, have you read any Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?

The Bookworm said...

Yeah I really liked her collection of short tories but I think Half Of A Yellow Sun wasn't quite worth the hype. She has a new novel coming out next month that looks fantastic, so quite excited for that!

Evan said...

I kinda liked Half of a Yellow Sun - the structure was a bit creaky, I admit, but I thought its characters well-developed and the setting well-conveyed. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was pretty bland by comparison.

As for the stories, I liked some of them, but others seemed more rants disguised as fiction. Adichie, for all her talent, appears to think that "white people" should not tell "Africa's Story." This message is present in Half of a Yellow Sun too, but communicated with more subtlety. Maybe I'm just not into authorial tracts as fiction.

That said, Americanah does look interesting and will certainly get around to it.

Post a Comment