Africa / Heroes

The Achebe Legacy.

So I knew, I’d like to write something longer for this man,  touted the “father  of modern African literature”. Prior to accepting this title as befitting of Achebe, I was wary of a possible exaggeration of his impact as a writer. For want of a better explanation, I asked how certain we are that, there were no other great literary heroes before Achebe? For in my mind, we, Africans in general, have always been a people who’s lives revolved around storytelling. By calling him the ‘father’, are we ignoring generations of people who may have been equally excellent at weaving tales of prominent African warriors, battles, kings and queens, albeit in languages other than English?

However, it is important to note that, in Achebe’s appellation, “modern” is the key word – “Father of modern African literature”. And with that in mind, Achebe deserves to be recognized  as the father of “modern” African literature, nothing less.As Achebe once said:

” Let no one be fooled by the fact that we write in English, for we intend to do unheard of things with it” , and unheard of things with it he did.

From Things Fall Apart which signified a certain “coming of age” of the African voice, to his latest ” There was a country”, Achebe’s writings have been nothing short of prolific, prophetic in some instances, and oh so accurate and powerful! His literary mark is indelible, and difficult to avoid or even contest. I have personally read five Achebe novels and contrary to popular belief that Things Fall Apart is his best, my all-time FAVORITE Achebe novel is “Anthills of the Savannah”.

You know that feeling when you pick up a book and the writer echoes your sentiments even better than you could have done yourself? That feeling when  line upon line in the novel, reveals truth upon truth? That feeling when you crack up with bouts of laughter at all the humor oozing from the novel, until people around you think you are mad?! Yup, Anthills of the Savannah did all those and more for me!

And so my tribute to Achebe is this…to encourage more people, Africans, non-Africans, people interested in Africa’s business, in literature, to read his works…trust me they are sharp, accurate and great reflections of where not only Nigerians but many other Africans are coming from.

Finally, what better way to immortalize the memory of such a literary genius than to keep his words alive? I intend to contribute my quota to his memory on this blog, by quoting below some 3 of my shortest favorite quotes from Anthills of the Savannah. So Professor Chinua Achebe, inspirer and teacher, may your spirit bear this restless pen of a young and budding writer, uttering the words you once spake, audience. Rest in perfect peace:

“Passion is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble”

“We clutter up our brains with all kinds of useless knowledge and we don’t know the genius who invented the shower or the paper stapler…let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us”

“Charity is the opium of the privileged … While we do our good works, let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary”


3 thoughts on “The Achebe Legacy.

  1. Thanks, Metty. I think where we grew up also plays a part in deciding which is a “best work”, although left to me, I’ve never tried to think good, better, best. In Nigeria where many of us STUDIED Things Fall Apart & then No Longer at Ease back in school in the 60s, we hold those two as the greatest. Reading “Anthills” & others for pleasure and the first two as set books are two very different things.

    All in all, all represents great contributions to African Lit.

    • Very well said. That’s true too. For me, my set works were Things Fall Apart & A Man of the people, however later on I read Anthills of the Savannah, and I chose that as my favorite. Nevertheless, you are very right – all his works are so unique and powerful in and of themselves. 🙂


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