Obit: It’s curtain-call for Chinua Achebe, Africa’s master story teller! – Tola Adenle

March 22, 2013

Africa, Society/Living, World

Two family members tried to track me down with the news and in this age of nowhere-to-hide, I managed – not by choice – to hide for hours, and missed the breaking news of the passing of a literary giant whose books influenced my early reading so much that it’s a fact known to those close to me.  In fact, one of the two is always impressed with my readiness to drop the entire wording of the preface  as contained in the edition of  No Longer at Ease we studied at school back during the age of the Dinosaur in ’63 – 50 years ago: To young Nigerians who read Achebe’s No longer at ease, Graham Green’s “We returned to our places, these kingdoms, but no longer at ease …” belonged to Achebe because of its being very apt for the very African story that the words heralded.

Books that told the Nigerian/African story, containing anecdotes, characters and types of places that we understood, AND written by Nigerian/African writers were unheard of before Cyprian Ekwensi and Chinua Achebe stormed the literary scene.  Achebe had Things Fall Apart and then No longer at ease which to every kid who read it for pleasure – uncommon back then – or studied it as a set work – which was how most of us came to them – was like getting a drink of cold water in the desert.

A generation of students not only in Nigeria but in Africa would study these two books for the secondary school leaving examination which is a far cry from the rot in the educational system today when students of English Language at university level are no longer familiar with African writers.

Chinua Achebe’s books and other writings have contributed greatly to the leading position that Nigeria holds in literary circles around the world, and it is these works more than his politics  – which, most of the time defines EVERY Nigerian – that he will be remembered for around the world.

Chinua Achebe, Government College, Umuahia “Old Boy”, [Nigeria’s premier] University of Ibadan alumnus, broadcaster, teacher, etcetera, etcetera, died at 82 at Boston, Massachusetts.  His last professional engagement was as “David and Mariana Fisher Professor of Literature at Brown University”, an Ivy League institution in the United States.

And if I may borrow Edwin Stanton’s words at Lincoln’s death for Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe: “Now, he belongs to the ages”.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O God.

Friday, March 22, 9.00 p.m.

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4 Comments on “Obit: It’s curtain-call for Chinua Achebe, Africa’s master story teller! – Tola Adenle”

  1. Fatai Bakare Says:

    Well, another giant has passed on. Though I was not a literature student, through friends who studied literature, I read Things Fall Apart and I enjoyed it then. May his soul rest in peace.



    • emotan77 Says:

      Well, Fatai, a little explanation is called for here judging from the time you commented and the time I supposedly posted. I had hit “publish” at exactly 9.00 p.m. but as I waited for the hour glass to stop dancing, I noticed the comment column lit up and when I checked, I was surprised to find your comments on the story even as the unpublished essay stared me in the face. I opened another window and checked the Home Page where lo and behold, the story was already on! Well, nothing is impossible in Nigeria!

      Thanks for this. A giant, indeed!

      It is a sad commentary that students who chose Science subjects back then would take it upon themselves to read novels studied by Arts students so that they were not at sea when Obi Okonkwo is mentioned as it was a thing of pride back then that you were able to be in step with everybody in knowledge outside your own area of studies. And Things Fall Apart/No Longer at Ease were particularly popular with students in the 60s and, I’m happy, even the 70s.

      Sincere regards, as always,



      • TAO OTUNLA Says:

        Chinua Achebe,succeeded better than all his contemporaries in gaining and holding WENA imagination and respect in the post colonial” white man came white man saw white man won” genre of post colonial African literature. His attempts to make political mileage for Igbo nationalism was often clumsy and he made his last stand sadly on slippery grounds. Achebe will remain a literary landmark for Africa and third world literature.


      • emotan77 Says:

        It is his literary genius we must continue to cherish.



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