Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A Life more Extraordinary

And so one by one, Nigerians of incomparable gravitas leave us and our beleaguered polity behind.

Of course, in times like these, we the people, bring forth our well rehearsed eulogies and blow our mournful trumpets of gloom. We are very good at doing that you see....

I do want to bore you with the minutiae of Chinua Achebe's life, as this has already been recorded and decanted too many times to count. But it might be worth reminding us all, there is nothing stopping us (especially Nigerians) doing all we can, in any field we may find ourselves, of pursuing a life those left behind would not require enforcement or cohesion to celebrate.

As can be clearly seen with Achebe's life, whether you subscribed to the man or not, his achievements are indubitable. For those who think his talents were limited to writing novels, a visit is necessary to the literary critique (An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness) delivered by Achebe in 1975 in response to Joseph Conrad's novel, 'Heart of Darkness'.

Yes, I wasn't a complete disciple, as his political slant on certain issues veered away from mine, but then he had seen and endured a lot more than my novice could lay claim to. Besides as Ngozi Adichie rightly noted, we do 'remember differently' and let's be frank, most of my 'memories' are in reality 'pass me down,' in the true oral tradition the great scribe trumpeted until his last days.

One area though where I will forever remain on the same page with the great man is the written word. Being interested in prose myself, I have often fantasised about writing a critique of Achebe's career, but ironically, words always failed me.

Having seen various attempts in the same pursuit, I often seek comfort in knowing I am not alone in that eternal struggle.

In a TIME Magazine article in 2006, an equally gargantuan talent from our shores did his very best and surmised:

"Achebe's influence on writers of succeeding generations is too great to quantify. Above all, this griot of modern letters has left the authentic imprint of African cultures across the globe, with a succession of narratives that challenge the skewed view of the continent in European literary tradition. His confident narratives of the life that was destroyed under the colonial mandate serve as models both of historical restoration and of stylistic mastery."

When you combine all that with the man's refusal of a national award (twice!) from Nigerian governments he considered to be inept and corrupt, then nothing extra is necessary or warranted to solidify the legacy of this Iroko of a man.

RIP sir!

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