Friday, March 22, 2013

Chinua Achebe Passes - Tribute and my Favorite Quotes

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Chinua Achebe is dead. Hearing the news of the death was a shock, yes he was old, but you still sometimes expect old lions to live forever. Chinua Achebe's different books, articles and essays he's written have had a significant influence on my own thoughts and views of the world. I find it instructive that he had a great belief in the power of the word and of writers to affect their society. He was an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, even after the switch to democracy.

Chinua Achebe publicly rejected National Honors and Awards bestowed on him. His final book, There Was A Country, published last year, shared his unvarnished thoughts on the main actors of the Nigerian civil war. Chinua Achebe may be dead now, but he has certainly laid down an enduring legacy. May his soul rest in peace and may his family be comforted.

From the Nelson Mandela Center;

On behalf of our Chairperson, Board of Trustees and staff of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, we would like to offer our condolences to the family of Prof. Chinua Achebe, a great African writer and thinker, who passed away on 21 March 2013 at the age of 82. Nelson Mandela referred to Prof. Achebe as a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down”.

The first Obituary from the NYTimes

Forced abroad by Nigeria’s bloody civil war in the 1960s and then by military dictatorship in the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Achebe had lived for many years in the United States, where he was a university professor. But he continued to believe that writers and storytellers ultimately held more power than army strongmen.

“Only the story can continue beyond the war and the warrior,” an old soothsayer observes in Mr. Achebe’s 1988 novel, “Anthills of the Savannah.” “It is the story that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind.”

My favorites quotes from the collection on the HuffPo

If you don't like someone's story, you write your own.

"There is no moral obligation to write in a particular way. But there is a moral obligation, I think, not to ally oneself with power against the powerless."

"The sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them."

"We shall all live. We pray for life, children, a good harvest and happiness. You will have what is good for you and I will have what is good for me. Let the kite perch and let the egret perch too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break."

"As a man danced so the drums were beaten for him."

"The white man is very clever. He came quietly 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."

"Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life."

"A proud heart can survive general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone."

There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter... Once I realized that, I had to be a writer.

"Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform."

"We must hear all the stories... And by hearing all the stories, we will find points of contact and communication, and the world story, the Great Story, will have a chance to develop."

"If one finger brings oil it soils the others."

"I worry when somebody from one particular tradition stands up and says, "The novel is dead, the story is dead." I find this to be unfair, to put it mildly. You told your own story, and now you're announcing the novel is dead. Well, I haven't told mine yet. "

"The world is like a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place."

Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. That this simple truth is glossed over in criticisms of his work is due to the fact that white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked.

A good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it. Just think of the work you’ve set yourself to do, and do it as well as you can.


  1. A great man. A powerful legacy. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

  2. I felt exactly exactly the same way you did Myne, i was shocked!, i guess i expected him to live forever abi, i felt i knew him through his writing, he was a great man( still have trouble addressing him in past tense) RIP Chinua Achebe the legend!!!

  3. R.I.P Chinua Achebe.
    His legacy will surely live on.

  4. One of my greatest inspirations. After reading his 'Things fall apart' in primary five, I knew I wanted to be like him; a writer!
    Rest in the bosom of the Lord Chinua.

  5. Read things fall apart in secondary school. he will forever be remembered as father of african litereture

  6. My favorite has always been the quote about the tale glorifying the hunter. History is HIS STORY. It's unfortunate that our knowledge of our African history mostly comes from our colonial masters. But thank God for people like Maryse Conde - her Segu and Children of Segu are a must read.

  7. Heeeey. No links to obits from Nigerian publications? Not good. Here's one:

  8. A legend is at rest for another to be awake.

  9. There was a country... And there was a WRITER. RIP legend

  10. May his soul RIP

  11. Tribute to bugseat man of valour. Chinua Achebe was a man who can in one word be described as a fighter. His words fought so many battles that swords and manpower left unfought. Going down history lane, his writings could be traced as one of the early writings Africa witnessed. God bless the day Prof Chinua Achebe was born.

    He is the most read African writer and his novels focus on Africa.

    RIP prof.

  12. I loved the quotes. Beautiful way to eulogize such a great icon

  13. I also felt the same way. I guess we all just expected him to live on forever...
    He was a really great man. May his soul rest in peace.

  14. One of the highpoints of my childhood was the Adaptation of Things Fall Apart into TV mini series...Pete Edochie, Justus Esiri,Joe Layode..

    I will never forget how as a little boy, I almost thought Chinua Achebe was not a Nigerian & how delighted I was when I found out he was

    I cried yesterday, I'm still teary eyed, I shocked myself that I'd cry over na 82 yr old who played his I wish he saw d Nigeria he longed for..on this side of Eternity...Adieu Sir, say me well to Chris Okigbo

  15. The Oracle of Ogidi Village has been silenced forever. He has obeyed the call of those greater than himself who dwell and preside on the lofy pinnacles of Ancestorland. His voice shall not fail, it shall walk the length and breath not of Nigeria, but the whole continent and the world, striding without fear like the Voice that walked the shadows of Eden seeking out Adam.; but now to continue to rebuke us, teach us and affirm us of our heritage as given to us by our ancestors. We all kept silence in respect in honour of his great spirit on its last journey. Rest in peace son of Achebe in you we have learnt that indeed through you God has fought for all of us.

    From Ralph Sibande
    South Africa.


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