Subscribe to Granta today

Chinua Achebe's Legacy

|

I am sitting in a meeting in a room at the Oval, it is a cold March morning, the sky overcast and as I listen to the third in a series of presentations on the new arrangements for public health in England, my phone buzzes in my pocket. I sneak a discreet peek. It’s a text from Izu, a friend in Nigeria, asking if it is true, the news about Achebe. The room blurs as I hurriedly send back the words I hope not, but from then on, I struggle to concentrate, compulsively flicking through the news pages, Facebook, Twitter, on my phone. The more I browse, without seeing any confirmation, the greater the little flicker of hope that it is all a rumour grows.

It is not until another friend from Nigeria sends a text confirming the news that a deep darkness, a leaden sense of loss descends on me. I look round the room and wonder how we can still be talking about public health, giving Powerpoint presentations, when it feels as if a deep gash has opened in the fabric of the universe.

I was six years old, when I met him. First in his book, Things Fall Apart, and then later that same year, in person, when his family moved back from the United States into the house next door on the university campus in Nsukka where I grew up. Even before I had read his books, his name was commonplace, thrown around by my older cousins, aunts and uncles who were reading his books as they were set literary texts in secondary school as a signal of erudition, of intelligence. Are you Chinua Achebe? they would ask of a friend who was boasting of their intellectual prowess.

I do not remember Things Fall Apart as particularly life-changing at that age, I simply loved the story, this recreation of a world that seemed entirely familiar, that echoed the stories that my grandparents told. A few years later, I read No Longer at Ease, a I realised what an extraordinary gift he had given to us, creating a space for us in the world, allowing us the chance to say: We too are here. battered early edition, missing a cover, illustrated by Bruce Onobrakpeya, the famed Nigerian artist some of whose etchings hung on the walls of our living room. I was unimpressed then by the non-realistic etchings with their stylized depictions of human beings but was utterly captivated by the story of Obi Okonkwo, who could easily have stepped out of one of my parents’ photograph albums. I imagined him in a fedora hat and suit, being met at the port on his return from England by his town union, the way my parents and many of their friends had been.

Along the way I also read his books for children, first Chike and the River, then the allegory of abuse of power How the Leopard Got Its Claws, co-written with John Iroaganachi and his collection of short stories Girls at War, which again resounded with familiar stories from my parents and their friends of their experiences during and just after the Biafran war.

And then I read Arrow of God and felt something deep and primal about the tragedy of Ezeulu, understanding for the first time, the power of literature to recreate a world, to present humanity in all its flawed glory

Reading his novels, I could hear the Anambra Igbo dialect echoing through the English words and sentences, and over the years, as I read and reread them, I came to appreciate the skill that allowed him to write Igbo in English.

Over the years, I returned again and again to his books, so often that the characters began to seem like old friends. His books told the story of my life, the story of my family’s lives, but it was not until much later that I realised what an extraordinary gift he had given to us, creating a space for us in the world, allowing us the chance to say: We too are here.

To mark his sixtieth birthday, the late Professor Edith Ihekweazu, then Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Nsukka invited the world tour small sleepy dusty town to mark his 6oth birthday in the fittingly titled Eagle on Iroko celebration. For a few heady days, it seemed that the centre of the literary world had moved to Nsukka and I like to imagine that a young Chimamanda Adichie watched too and was inspired.

Growing up in Nsukka we were also privileged to witness his utter devotion to his family, his quiet yet fierce support of his wife and children, his investment of time and resources to ventures like the literary journal Okike which often featured writing from people that I knew, people who lived near us. Reading their published poems and stories helped me believe that writers and artists were not otherworldly beings that they could be the uncle or aunt down the road and inspired my first feeble attempts at writing.

He was the antithesis of the Nigerian Big Man: softly spoken, thoughtful with a quiet dignity that echoed in his work. And he could be trusted to speak out when there were difficult things that needed saying. But they were also delivered with a dose of the subtle wit and humour that illuminated his being and his work.

All day I have fielded calls from distraught friends in different parts of the world. In tears, they echo my thoughts, our shock at the suddenness, our illogical hope that he would be always be here, a sudden wrenching feeling that something huge and irreplaceable has been lost; his passing a painful reminder that we are losing a generation of wise elders.

Who will speak out for us now? Who will ask the hard questions of us and the world that he did? Where are the drums and the flutes to dance a great masquerade on his homeward journey?

We will take solace in the words that he has left behind, words that will live on long after we have all gone, words that hopefully will continue to inspire us to acknowledge each other’s humanity; to be greater, to be more.

That will be his legacy. ■

You can read Ike Anya's piece 'People Don't Get Depressed in Nigeria' in Granta 120: Medicine, here.

Comments (38)

You need to create an account or log in to comment.

  1. Sinibaldi

    Mon Mar 25 16:27:01 GMT 2013

    Simply that sun.

    The largest
    sound revives
    in the memory
    like a gentle
    delight in the
    heart of a
    dream.

    Francesco Sinibaldi

    #
  2. Aqibarif741@gmail.com

    Sun Mar 30 12:15:43 BST 2014

    You can post on the ease of use for the blog. You might author it's sweet. Your blog message shall maximize your leads.
    http://www.pinterest.com/bubblegumcastin bubblegum casting

    #
  3. streamingfilmz

    Fri Aug 01 11:16:19 BST 2014

    Perhaps, what is best about YouTube is that it is a free service. There are a fairly large number of online video sites; all of these sites operate in different ways. When speaking of usage, there are a many online sites that charge you to become a member and others that charge you to watch certain videos.

    http://www.streamingfilmz.com

    #
  4. manu

    Fri Mar 28 10:04:07 GMT 2014

    Incredible! I had no idea that this can be so interesting – thanks to this article I started to do some research by video game tester jobs http://gametesterjobs4u.com/get-paid-to-play-games

    #
  5. kampungsepatu

    Sat Oct 25 01:50:39 BST 2014

    saya sangat senang mengunjungi stus anda ini karena sangat bermanfaat sekali, im from indonesian sir and sorry I talking in indonesian language :)

    when turning visit our web deign yes, we would love if you want to be friends with us.
    <a href="http://kampungsepatu.com/blog/maidaniipancakedurian-com-distributor-resmi-pancake-durian-oleh-oleh-khas-medan">Pancake Durian</a>
    and you to must visit <a href="http://kampungsepatu.com"> jual sepatu murah </a>

    Kami juga saat ini melayani <a href="http://armandotejuca.blogspot.com/2014/10/jasa-penulis-artikel-blog-indonesia.html"> jasa penulis artikel blog indonesia </a> paling murah di kaskus.

    Serta anda juga mesti membaca ini <a href="http://armandotejuca.blogspot.com/"> harga hp samsung terbaru </a> dan artikel <a href="http://uniknyataku.blogspot.com/"> unik nyata aneh </a> gratis ini.
    <a href="https://pakaianwanita2910.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/resep-membuat-pancake-durian/"> resep cara membuat pancake. <a href="http://sepatuonline11.blogspot.com/"> sepatu online </a> apakah anda juga ingin melihat <a href="http://uniknyataku.blogspot.com/2014/10/melihat-melalui-mata-cinta-pelanggaran.html"> tentang cinta </a> yang menjalin relationship for you.
    <a href="http://jaketgokil.tumblr.com/"> jaket gokil </a> untuk pria dan wanita.

    #
  6. khare

    Tue Mar 25 17:02:52 GMT 2014

    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9CJTsEa4ys">michael fiore text your ex back reviews</a> Michael Fiore Text Your Ex Back 2.0 System Launches ! www.textmate2.org/michael-fiore-text-your-ex-back-2-0 What's new in Michael Fiore's Text Your Ex Back 2.0 System? The original Text Your Ex Back PDF and download has been highly successful at helping couples reunite after a breakup. The new Text Your Ex Back 2.0 system makes vast improvements on the previous version and contains many more text examples and clearer instruction on the logistics of texting your ex after a breakup. click this youtube url: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9CJTsEa4ys ...

    #
  7. khare

    Tue Mar 25 17:01:12 GMT 2014

    <a href="https://www.rebelmouse.com/reverseyourdiabetestoday/">matt traverso reverse your diabetes today method review</a> Reverse Your Diabetes Today: Matt Traverso Reveals The Ultra-Rare, 100% Scientifically Proven Diabetes Treatment Breakthrough For Being Diabetes Free (No Drugs Or Needles Required) In As Little As 21 Days... https://www.rebelmouse.com/reverseyourdiabetestoday/ ...

    #
  8. vinda

    Wed Aug 06 03:24:02 BST 2014

    I haven't enough time to go to several web sites. However nowadays I not found this website accidently. I explored a lot info and that is useful to my lifestyle. Thanks ! http://anndgreen.edublogs.org

    #
  9. khare

    Fri Jun 13 05:23:27 BST 2014

    <a href="https://www.rebelmouse.com/texttheromancebackmichaelfiore/">michael fiore's text the romance back 2.0 program</a> Text The Romance Back by Michael Fiore gives you instant, online access to a simple, step-by-step system in which Mike teaches you his powerful secrets, techniques, and unique method for quickly and easily reviving the romance in your relationship by using specific language "cues" in your text messages. Visit site https://www.rebelmouse.com/texttheromancebackmichaelfiore/

    #
  10. khare

    Fri Jun 13 05:30:47 BST 2014

    <a href="http://savannahga.custom-home-builder.org/lots/">Here</a> Not sure what to say but I think you make some pretty good points here that I haven't heard before. They really made me think about what you say. Have you thought that maybe there is more to the issue than just this? Maybe there is more we can do as people to get behind a solution to the issue that you bring to light. A concerned citizen wanting to do more to help. Please visit site http://savannahga.custom-home-builder.org/lots/ ...

    #
  11. khare

    Fri Jun 13 05:31:15 BST 2014

    <a href="http://bajardepesobailando.blog.com/">quemar grasa sin riesgo</a> Como Perder Peso Desde Casa. Hay trucos fáciles sobre cómo bajar de peso en todo el Internet. Así que usted quiere perder peso, pero no sabes cómo? Una mejor manera de mantener un registro de lo que come es escribirlas. Anotar la cantidad de calorías de la comida que usted comió contiene le hará saber si necesita tomar más calorías o si usted comió demasiadas calorías. También se dijo que si usted encuentra un amigo de pérdida de peso en línea que tiene el mismo objetivo que usted, perder peso, usted tiene mayor probabilidad de perder peso porque usted está siendo apoyado por ellos. Por favor, visite el sitio web http://bajardepesobailando.blog.com/ ...

    #
  12. khare

    Fri Jun 13 05:37:19 BST 2014

    <a href="http://licuados.wikidot.com/">quemar grasa con hielo</a> Licuados Para Bajar de Peso. Licuados Para Bajar de Peso. se está convirtiendo en un problema grave en todo el mundo. La mayoría de los adultos que sufren con su peso están constantemente buscando maneras de lograr sus objetivos de pérdida de peso, muchos de inflexión a la dieta se reduce a que el proceso sea un poco más fácil. If you want this product full information. Please visit website http://licuados.wikidot.com/ ...

    #
  13. khare

    Fri Jun 13 05:45:10 BST 2014

    <a href="https://sites.google.com/site/dmaportland/">testimonials of D.M.A. Portland</a> Company Function: DMA Portland reviews effectiveness of marketing channels of a national vendor in the local Portland, OR metropolitan area. For more information on DMA Portland, please visit the website https://sites.google.com/site/dmaportland/ ...

    #
  14. khare

    Fri Jun 13 05:47:51 BST 2014

    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-93rum-7ws">Strategic Campaigns Inc</a> strategiccampaignsinc.weebly.com Strategic Campaigns Inc (Kansas City, MO) reviews what its like working at the company. Management at Strategic Campaigns Inc reviews why this Kansas City marketing company drives results for some of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the world. Please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-93rum-7ws ...

    #
  15. khare

    Fri Jun 13 05:49:10 BST 2014

    <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/company/veritas-inc-">these reviews of Veritas Inc</a> Veritas Inc Reviews Success of Cheeseburgers for the Homeless. Veritas Inc (Atlanta, GA) is quickly becoming the authority in sales and marketing in the Southeast region of the United States. The company attributes a large part of their success. Please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/veritas-inc- ...

    #
  16. khare

    Fri Jun 13 14:36:13 BST 2014

    <a href="https://www.rebelmouse.com/michaelfioresecretsurveyreview/">the secret survey program review</a> The Secret Survey: Michael Fiore Releases His Coveted Survey Results That Expose The Real Reason Men Lie (Even To Women They Love) And The "Hidden In Plain Sight" Indicators That Reveal How A Man Really Feels About You. Written for consumers by a consumer, this site includes a fun and informative Secret Survey review and buyers guide that provides an insider's look at the program and answers frequently asked questions about Michael Fiore's unique and highly popular guide to understanding what men really want. Please visit https://www.rebelmouse.com/michaelfioresecretsurveyreview/ ...

    #
  17. khare

    Fri Jun 13 14:36:24 BST 2014

    <a href="https://www.rebelmouse.com/flowersbypost/">www.rebelmouse.com/flowersbypost/</a> Send Fresh Flowers By Post UK from £9.99 FREE Flower Delivery. Beautiful postal flowers are delivered in secure packaging, ready to display and in superb condition – with over 30 years experience going into each and every beautiful design. Starting From £9.99 - & FREE Delivery. Please visit https://www.rebelmouse.com/flowersbypost/ ...

    #
  18. khare

    Fri Jun 13 14:39:52 BST 2014

    <a href="http://www.weightbenchsetsz.com/">Bowflex Selecttech Adjustable Bench</a> I have found that using a good weight bench can progressively increase your bench press workouts. While I initially favored flat weight benches, my view has since then changed. Using adjustable weight bench sets is the way to go. True, some of them might be a little expensive, but the benefits they give you in the long run far much outweighs their exorbitant price. Please visit site http://www.weightbenchsetsz.com/ ...

    #
  19. khare

    Fri Jun 13 14:47:09 BST 2014

    <a href="http://bouncycastlehirelondon.bloghi.com/">inflatable hire london</a> For starting out as a fairly simple and basic idea, a bouncy castle can provide great big fun. Jumping and flying through the air runs through the minds of every child once they see the big, bouncy fun houses. Children will bounce for hours on end and will only reluctantly quit when told to. When playing in these play structures, a child's imagination can run wild. One minute they can be fighting dragons from the castle walls, and the next flying through the air themselves, or anything else they can imagine. Please visit web http://bouncycastlehirelondon.bloghi.com/ ...

    #
  20. waterblack

    Sat Jun 14 15:55:20 BST 2014

    Superb is the only word i will give u for this amazing blog, keep it up. I will keep coming back again to read some more exciting things on this topic.

    Find trade schools at usatradeschools.com
    http://usatradeschools.com

    #
  21. davidjames

    Tue Oct 21 14:46:44 BST 2014

    Easily, the doctrine is indeed the cream text on this registry allied outcome. I strong in accompanying your outcomes further resolution eagerly ogle progressive to your adjacent modernizes. True maxim blesss mind nay proper be adequate, for the fantasti c lucidity in your paper. I devise instantaneously capture your rss nurse to visit knowing of some restores.
    Jennifer Webb
    FINESTURL.COM

    #
  22. duyentran607

    Thu Aug 14 14:00:34 BST 2014

    It is not until another friend from Nigeria sends a text confirming the news that a deep darkness, a leaden sense of loss descends on me. <a href="http://the-usonlinecasino.tumblr.com/">Online Casino Reviews</a>

    #
  23. duyentran607

    Tue Aug 19 18:47:05 BST 2014

    Online casino games have become tremendously popular thanks to the spread of the internet. Online casinos can be divided into three groups based on their interface:<a href="http://the-usonlinecasino.tumblr.com/">Online Casino Reviews</a>

    #
  24. Donald Penner

    Wed Aug 27 16:08:28 BST 2014

    Making a lifestyle change in how you eat can considerably reduce the chances of you having a heart attack or getting heart disease www.Laptop-Computer.net www.Gabbing.info

    #
  25. shrabon100

    Mon Sep 08 16:33:17 BST 2014

    Thanks again for the blog article.Much thanks again. Much obliged. <a href="http://www.magnet-magnete.eu">magnet-magnete.eu</a>

    #
  26. ASADALI11122

    Sat Sep 27 17:23:32 BST 2014

    You could post on the links for the blog. You may day it's first-rate. Your blog raves will boost your income streams.
    <a title="blog comments" href="http://www.fiverr.com/aqibarif74/welcome-this-gig-60-high-pr-blog-comment-on-backlinks-dofollow-maunally-but-very-very-low-external-link-only">blog comments</a>

    #
  27. Sarah Rodriguez

    Fri Oct 31 09:33:11 GMT 2014

    On the whole comfort and ease while resting on the mattress is evenly as necessary as ample lower back assist. A medium-firm mattress might be extra comfortable simply because it permits the shoulder and hips to sink in a little.
    http://www.jpkallio.com/what-is-the-greatest-mattress-for-back-ache-medical-professionals-communicate-out/

    http://mccordsales.com/how-to-discover-the-finest-mattress-for-back-pain/

    http://www.swire-mt.com/doc-please-which-mattress-is-best-for-my-back/

    #
  28. ngeblog

    Mon Nov 03 18:37:58 GMT 2014

  29. elis rahma

    Thu Nov 13 14:24:18 GMT 2014

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for, thank very much
    <a href="http://galerysepatu.com/">Sweater Murah</a>,
    <a href="http://galerysepatu.com/sepatu-pantofel-pria">Jual Sepatu Pantofel</a> , <a href="http://galerysepatu.com/sepatu-safety-pria">Sepatu Safety</a>, <a href="http://galerysepatu.com/sepatu-kets-pria">Sepatu Kets Online</a>, <a href="http://galerysepatu.com/sepatu-boots-wanita">Sepatu Boots Wanita</a>, <a href="http://galerysepatu.com/sepatu-high-heels-wanita">Sepatu High Heels</a>

    #