Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Colossus of African writing' Chinua Achebe dies (82)

Tim Cocks Lagos

Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, widely seen as the grandfather of modern African literature, has died at the age of 82.

From the publication of his first novel, 'Things Fall Apart', over 50 years ago, Achebe shaped an understanding of Africa, from an African perspective, more than any other author.

As a novelist, poet, broadcaster and lecturer, Achebe was a yardstick against which generations of African writers have been judged. For children across Africa, his books have for decades been an eye-opening introduction to the power of literature.

Describing Achebe as a "colossus of African writing", South African President Jacob Zuma expressed sadness at his death.

Nelson Mandela, who read Achebe's work in jail, has called him a writer "in whose company the prison walls fell down". Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart', published in 1958, told of his Igbo ethnic group's fatal brush with British colonisers in the 1800s – the first time the story of European colonialism had been told from an African viewpoint to an international audience.

The book was translated into 50 languages and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

He later turned his sights on the devastation wrought to Nigeria and Africa by military coups and entrenched dictatorship. 'Anthills of the Savannah', published in 1987, is set after a coup in a fictional African country, where power has corrupted and state brutality silenced all but the most courageous.

Although Achebe never won the Nobel literature prize like fellow Nigerian Wole Soyinka, his works won praise for their vivid portrayal of African realities and their accessibility.

Irish Independent

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