So I was going to talk about something else, but then I learned earlier today that writer Chinua Achebe–the first-ever novelist to hit big out of Africa and probably the only African writer most Westerners are exposed to–died today at the age of 82.
I first encountered Achebe’s writing when I read his first novel, Things Fall Apart, last year as part of a global literature course. I found the book’s story–which focuses on Okonkwo, a leader and feared wrestler in the Nigerian village of Umuofia, and what happens to him when he has to take care of a boy from another village, Ikemefuna, and the encroaching influence of both incoming British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his people.
The book is one powerful ride, providing a unique glimpse at a period of history too overlooked from a perspective not widely understood. Achebe was actually educated in the British system. Despite this, he still felt it necessary to speak out against all that the English colonizers had done to his people.
That belief–that conviction that you must speak out against the system, even if the system has benefited you–is an admirable one and I applaud him, as have many others, for doing so.
Regrettably, I’ve read nothing of his stuff outside of Things, but I plan to correct that. So rest in peace, Mr. Achebe. Your legacy will be treasured by literary lovers for generations to come.