It is with great pain and sadness that I share the news of the passing of an illustrious writer, a great son of Anambra State, Nigeria, and one of the pivotal influences on my life as a reader/writer. It was Chinua Achebe’s book, Things Fall Apart, that opened my eyes to the rich and varied culture of my people, the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria. I read it as a preteen in Nigeria and it left an indelible mark on me; it gave me a clear understanding of the importance of roles, rituals and respect in Ibo land. Ikemefuna and Okonkwo’s harrowing tale gave me both nightmares and a deep appreciation for the traditions and tribulations of our culture.
“Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” Chinua Achebe
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The Falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. – W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
Who could ever forget the power and magic of Achebe’s mastery of idiomatic expressions that remain a fairly ubiquitous part of every day speech in Ibo culture? Who could forget the quote above that laid the foundation to the title of his book? Or the opening paragraph in Things Fall Apart that introduced us to Okonkwo? I ate up Achebe’s words like candy, devoured all his other books, and developed a lifelong love for his writings. His Fiction echoed the messages passed on through our collective history and ancestral lineage. His words were stark reminders of what shaped ancient Ibo history and the legacy we could pass on. More below.