the birth of modern African literature


More to the point, as Philip Gourevitch observed online at the New Yorker on Friday, “Achebe — who has gone to his grave without ever receiving the Nobel Prize he deserved as much as any novelist of his era — has said that to be called simply a writer, rather than an African writer, is ‘a statement of defeat.’” In that sense, “Things Fall Apart” is not just the starting point of African literature, but of modern African literature: contemporary, hybrid, global in its implications, influenced by everything, and richer for it in its evocation of the world. For this reason, perhaps, the most affecting tributes to Achebe are the most personal, the testimony of younger writers whose lives he helped dream into being. In a 2009 TED talk, Adichie credited him with helping her to realize “that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature,” a point she also made at Town Hall.

more from David L. Ulin at the LA Times here.