Chinua Achebe. A true legend. A human literary phenomenon. He was a masterpiece, a role model and pioneer to the literary world. Chinua Achebe died on March 22, 2013, at the age of 82. His death was greatly felt all over the world, as the realization hit home that we had indeed lost a true hero.
Achebe was a writer, novelist, professor, and a critic whose writing was impeccable; his themes gave voice to the history of Nigeria, to the social, economic and political issues that Nigeria as a British colony faced during the colonial times. His writing gave his readers a sense of comfort, bringing awareness to the African readers that they were not alone in their predicament – the search for a national identity. One major theme that Achebe always emphasized on was the tradition of the Igbo society – the importance of folklore, the beauty of oral story-telling, impressing on family and community togetherness and the preservation of traditional culture. Another important theme of his was on the conflict between the western and traditional cultures during and after colonialism. Was there a meeting point between the African tradition and 'modernity'? When we read Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God, we sense that Achebe believes that taking a man away from his culture will ultimately lead to the destruction of his traditional values and essentially destroy his value as a person, for his core values are what makes him the dignified African man that he is. Not only does this clash destroy the man, but it also leads to the downfall of the society as a whole, leading to chaos and corruption. The quote below best illustrates this viewpoint:
"The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart."
--- Okonkwo's speech from Things Fall Apart
Achebe was one of the first authors to open the door for African writers all over the world, to give voice to what Africa represents, to show that Africa is not just a faceless illustration on the world map, but a place of beauty with an exquisite culture that's educating and breathtaking all at once.
Chinua Achebe's works include: Things Fall Apart (1958); No Longer At Ease (1960); Arrow of God (1964); A man of the People (1966); Anthills of the Savannah (1987). He was also the author of many essays that varied from topics about the Nigeria-Biafra War and politics, to literacy and education, and criticisms of literary works - specifically criticizing Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Below are some very interesting, quite educating quotes from this great man who helped in changing African history, and indeed, made Africans a better people.