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Salutations and tributes to Chinua Achebe

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Salutations and tributes to Chinua Achebe

A number of academics and literati agree that Arrow of God was Achebe at his best. His other well-known books include: No Longer at Ease, A Man of the People, Anthills of the Savannah, and Beware Soul Brother

Achebe also published several essays as well as children’s books, a popular example of the latter being Chike and the River. He recalled that he was pushed into writing for children when he visited a major bookshop in London and could not find one children’s book written by Africans for Africans.

At the launch, speakers lamented the fact that Achebe’s books have not been adapted for children.

Nadine Gordimer praised Things Fall Apart as the founding creation of modern African literature. Toni Morrison recounted the impact Chinua Achebe had on her own beginnings as a writer thus: “My debt to Achebe is the best kind. Large, minus repayment schedule and interest-free.”

The man himself spent a considerable amount of time and effort on political writings, namely the Biafra story, and the future of Nigeria.

Helon Habila, in an interview with Achebe published in Africa Report and Sable Lit Magazine in 2007, revealed the great man’s constant preoccupation with the state of his beloved country.

Asked where he saw Nigeria in 15 years (in 2022), and about the prediction that it would break up like some of the Eastern European countries, his response was: “I have to confess to you that I am really quite superstitious. I hope Nigeria doesn’t break up in 15 years, so I prefer not to prophesy.” (They laughed.)

Ultimately the tribute that Achebe himself cherished most came from none other than Nelson Mandela, who predeceased him by some eight months. Said Mandela: “There was a writer named Achebe, in whose company the prison walls fell.” It was the one tribute Achebe hung on his wall.

“Let the hawk perch and let the eagle also perch,” Achebe said, as an illustration of the necessity for tolerance and co-existence. It is thus no wonder that he and Nelson Mandela were kindred spirits.

Chinua Achebe, Tributes and Reflections is a beautifully published book that must take pride of place in every bookshop, and in every academic institution. Great credit must go to Ayebia Clarke Publishers, without whom the memory bank of great African Writers was in danger of being forgotten.

As Achebe said, “If you don’t like someone’s story, you tell your own.” And Africans should not wait for tributes to their heroes to be told by others, as encapsulated in Achebe’s memorable proverb:“If nobody will praise me, I will praise myself, said the Lizard which fell from the high Iroko tree.” Many would have witnessed that the lizard, on falling, nods its head repeatedly in appreciation of its feat.

In that sense, the Iroko tree will in modern times be Ayebia Clarke Publishers, on whose branches the hawks of African literature will perch, and the eagles also. And as for the lizard, it will have to live to fight another day.

Chinua Achebe: Tributes and Reflections, edited by Nana Ayebia Clarke and James Currey,  available at www.ayebia.co.uk

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Written by Pusch Commey

Pusch Commey is a Barrister of the High Court of South Africa, Award winning writer and associate editor of New African Magazine since 1999. He is based in Johannesburg South Africa. He is the author of 9 books including the best selling 100 great African kings and queens, and Tofi's Fire Dance. He is also the CEO of the South African based Real African Publishers, and the founder of the Real African Writers  series.

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