Chinua_AchebeThe literary fraternity in Africa and beyond has suffered a big blow. The death of the founding father of African literature and master story teller,Chinua Achebe, is a tragedy in the literary circles.

Achebe has exited the stage but left an indelible mark in the annals of world literature. This is a man who took African literature to great heights at a time when Africa appeared like a literary desert.

Achebe played a pivotal role in African literature, a field that had not been recognised in the mainstream world literature. In fact, way back in the 1970s at a writers’ conference in Makerere, Uganda — where Achebe was in attendance — there was a heated debate on the definition of African literature since little had been written and recognised. This prompted Achebe’s famous remark: “Let’s find out where the rain started to beat us.”

Achebe was a master story teller who represented the society in vivid ways. Any person reading his works easily identifies with what he addressed. His first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958) is widely read and has shaped world literature.

Personally I have read the novel several times and each time I read it appears new.

Achebe presents the colonial experience from the African stand point and he does so without sliding into the labyrinth of romanticising the African past. Things Fall Apart is a novel that sets out to offer crucial moral lessons to its audience.

The power of a story teller, Achebe posits in his book, Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975), lies in his or her ability to appeal to the mind and reach beyond his or her particular circumstance and thus speak to different periods and generations. This is exactly what he has done in most of his works.

Readers learn so much from Okonkwo, the cultural hero, and his tragic fall much as he tries to live up to the dictates of his culture.

Achebe’s other literary works have also stood the test of time because of their relevance to the modern world. His novel, Arrow of God (1964), which explores the intersections of Igbo tradition and European Christianity, is a classic novel that further cements the African literary idiom.

Complete with rich African sayings and idioms, the novel makes a good reading. Achebe also makes a representation of the post-colonial African situation in most of his works. His novels, A man of the People(1966) and Anthills of the Savannah (1967) are still very relevant to the contemporary Africa which is replete with massive post independent disillusionment and grim pictures of the political situation.

VIVERE NANDIEMO, Ikerege of Sunday Nation