Chinua Achebe death: ‘a mind able to penetrate the mystery of being human’

Nadine Gordimer in The Guardian:

FILES-Nigerian-writer-Chi-008Taking the Irish poet WB Yeats's despairing statement of destruction – things fall apart – for its title, Chinua Achebe's first novel was a presentiment of what was to come in Nigeria during the end of the colonial occupations and their aftermath. It is the founding creation of modern African imaginative literature, the opening act of exploration into African consciousness using traditional modes of expression along with those appropriated from colonial culture, particularly the English language. That first work was also prescient – not only of Achebe's creative powers to develop as a writer in subsequent works, but of the political upheavals, the embattled end of colonialism, the fight for freedom by which the lives of the people of Africa have been shaped.

Achebe lived through these times – a tragic civil war in his country – as an activist in extreme personal danger, finally exile, fulfilling Albert Camus' statement of what it means to be a writer: “The day when I am no more than a writer I shall cease to be a writer.” He kept faith with this commitment. Yet during those years he wrote novels, stories, essays and poems that were a bold revelation to his countrymen and women and the world of what suppression and oppression really meant. And trust Achebe to give a new definition of colonialism. His collection of essays, recently reissued as a modern classic, is The Education of a British-protected Child. Achebe's works do not fear to challenge those post-colonial, independent regimes in Africa who abuse personal power in every possible way – from banning political opposition, to corruption. His novel A Man of the People, a biting satire on corruption in freed African regimes, uses the blade of humour to alert us to official greed and the cant which legitimises it.

More here.