He reminded them how his generation of Africans had fought for freedom.“But we don’t seem to have a receipt,” he said.NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Ngugi wa Thiongo as being one of Achebe’s fellow Nigerian writers, he is [email protected] staff writer Elaine Woo contributed to this report.In his writings for the student newspaper, he began to find his voice.
” Achebe wrote.“Things Fall Apart” focuses on the clash between the local Igbo traditions and the colonialists who misunderstood, dismissed and undermined African culture. 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,” Achebe wrote in the novel.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called him “a cultural icon” and said that his “frank, truthful and fearless interventions in national affairs will be greatly missed at home in Nigeria.”Achebe wrote short stories, essays, poetry and children’s books in addition to five novels and edited collections of modern African literature.
Awarded the Man Booker prize for his life’s work in 2007, he remains best known for “Things Fall Apart,” a complex portrait of colonialism’s impact on native Nigerian culture.
That decision was to change his life and the landscape of African literature.
Growing up, he had absorbed Western prejudices so thoroughly that, he later wrote, “I did not see myself as an African to begin with.” But in college, it dawned on him that he had given up too much of his identity and could not accept white authors’ portrayals of Africans as culturally inferior and subhuman.
With more than 10 million copies sold in 50 languages, it established Achebe as the patriarch of modern African literature.
Achebe, who has been praised by Nelson Mandela as the writer who “brought Africa to the world,” died Friday in Boston after a brief illness. His death was announced by a government spokesman in Achebe’s home state of Anambra.
After graduating in 1953 from University College in Ibadan, he worked briefly as a teacher but soon took a job as scriptwriter with the Nigerian Broadcasting Service. His views on colonial Nigeria from the African point of view in “Things Fall Apart,” “No Longer At Ease,” and “Arrow of God” formed his answer to works such as Cary’s “Mister Johnson” and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”In 1975, he had written a groundbreaking and controversial essay on what he called the racist, dehumanizing portrayal of Africa in “Heart of Darkness.” “Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in …
reducing Africa to the role of props for the breakup of one petty European mind? We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stand.