Sunday, 24 March 2013
THE EXIT OF A WRITING LEGEND
Photograph: Mike Cohea/AP
Once in every era, a voice is born with a rare ability to stand for truth in the midst of storms. In the era that ended this past Friday, Chinua Achebe(1930-2013) was that person. His ability to walk on turbulent waters...a place that even angels and demons fear to tread is a quality that will continue to vibrate for generations to come.
Some writers argue that when a man is left with just a few days to his death, he becomes emotionally disturbed with unsettling questions doing their rounds in that person's head. In the introduction of Leo Tolstoy's novella THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH, the writer seems to say the same thing. He says that a lot of people experience a finality that makes them so afraid; not because of the impending departure but because of the fear of having failed to do things that they should have done. But for Chinua Achebe (I can't bring myself to say, The Late Chinua Achebe because I think that he still lives, in his own special way) this thinking can be said to be totally false because he wrote as much as he could and not only that, he wrote widely and far into the future. His works will be as new in a century to come as they were in the 20th century when they were fast written. Achebe clearly devoted his life to the obedience of his calling as a writer.
Chinua Achebe's writings are undoubtedly the most studied works of literature in Africa and beyond. His acclaimed literary daughter Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her talk THE DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY confirms the indespensability of Achebe's writing. She says that reading Achebe's books opened her eyes to new and peculiar truths and helped her redefine literature... she realised that characters with kinky hair and skin the color of chocolate could exist in literature... In a recent essay, WE REMEMBER DIFFERENTLY, Chimamanda acknowledges the fact that Achebe is a writer whose work gave her permission to write. She goes on to say...
"...Afterwards, I held on to the phone and wept. I have memorised those words. In my mind, they glimmer still, the validation of a writer whose work had validated me."
That brief digression was to draw us to the length of life Achebe still has ahead despite his physical death. I believe that Chimamanda will not want to offend her literary father's memory by doing anything less than what she should in as far as literature is concerned.
Chinua Achebe's name will remain in our hearts and the hearts of many who will be born in the coming generations. The best honor we can give his soul is to walk the talk.