x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Chinua Achebe: exit of a literary giant

In his commercial and critical success, Chinua Achebe proved that there is a worldwide appetite for good stories, wherever they are set.

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, who died on Thursday in Boston at age 82, will be remembered as the father of African literature. In the 55 years since the publication of his first novel Things Fall Apart, it has sold more than 10 million copies, making it the most widely read work of literature by an African.

Achebe spent much of his life in the US, most recently as professor of literature and languages at Brown University in Rhode Island. But he remained active in African literary and political circles.

He was both a friend of the famous - including Nelson Mandela, who took sustenance from Achebe's books while in jail - and a man of the people. His support for the short-lived breakaway state of Biafra and his refusal to accept national honours strained his relationship with some Nigerians, but he is being widely mourned in his homeland.

Achebe's work was informed by the fallout of colonialism, his pride in his ethnicity - he was an Igbo - and his desire to tell stories reflecting traditions and cultural values. In this he provided a role model and an inspiration for writers everywhere. And in his commercial and critical success, he proved that there is a worldwide appetite for good stories.