Godfather of African Literature, Africa and Me
Last year an editor assigned me to review Chinua Achebe’s 20 books. Some of which I’ve not even read and that’s the reason why I started the project, but have not yet completed it. I will be doing injustice to his brilliant legacy without including the unread books in the assignment. But his death serves as a dynamo driving me to finish this work. Despite I’ve got several books from new African writers to review as well. I’ve long been enchanted and inspired by the Godfather’s passion, drive and determination to legitimize and position African culture and literature into mainstream writing, once perceived inferior, if not backward. But Achebe has toiled to remove that hurdle employing the richness and quality of his story telling genius that has arrested the attention of readers around the world in giving him a serious second look. (Photo: Roland Bankole Marke, author)
How could a man who initially aspired studying medicine and coming from a Christian background embark on a sojourn in story telling with laser focus? Trying to promote and enchant others with the African culture and tradition in such boldness, clarity and convincing prowess. His mustard seed probably considered fruitless, actually blossomed perfuming the world with his African fragrance and infectious genre. Often imported religious values and doctrines militate against traditional values and beliefs. Even in 1990 when he was involved in a serious accident in Nigeria, his homeland he had left for exile abroad left him crippled from the waist down. His disability propelled and empowered him to continue his crusade for recognition and demanding dignity towards African values. Giving Africa a new identity and higher stock price in the international market of literature and its once ridiculed people and culture. Achebe’s Movement was already born and gaining momentum, while some people failed to realize its impact and transformation of the world. His name became a trademark and his services often in demand were hired for about $500,000, far above the market price.
Like most budding writers initially, he had to break the condescending African mold that writing and publishing is not favorable for African people, but for Westerners. And dictates one has to get a real job to support his nuclear family and a multitude of relatives, who feel that others owe them their source of livelihood. Some of our people are very short sighted and complacent. Often, too afraid to break the yoke of fear of failure, and venture into new grounds. Indeed success has many friends but failure like poverty is an orphan. Achebe took risks and emerged from the cocoon of perceived blindness and darkness. And shedding light that sparkles, even transform the world too afraid to shed its tainted skin of ignorance that’s still prevalent today.
If one doesn’t have a goal or mission in life others will recruit him to promote theirs. I recall people telling me what area of writing I should concentrate on. But Achebe did it all, poetry, editing, journalism and story telling with equal confidence and proficiency. Successful writers do not build a wall around themselves. For budding writers need seasoned writers to nurture them and evaluate their work. Achebe has helped in creating and nurturing writers at all levels of their journey. His vision gave birth to a community of African writers who would carry on his dream and legacy. Already, the Nigerian Federal government is about to name the National Library Headquarters under construction in the capital Abuja, after him. The Godfather’s maiden book ‘Things Fall Apart’ has sold over12 million copies and translated into 50 languages. Certainly, great writers like Achebe don’t die they go on to live forever.
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