23 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Zim Writers Mourn Chinua Achebe

Photo: Vanguard
Chinua Achebe

Zimbabwean writers yesterday described the death of popular Nigerian literary icon Chinua Achebe as a great loss to Africa as he helped shape African literature.

Achebe succumbed to an undisclosed illness in Boston, Massachusetts yesterday. He was 82.

Zimbabwe Writers Association chairperson Musaemura Zimunya said Achebe broke the path for African literature.

At the time of his death, the renowned author of popular novel Things Fall Apart was teaching at the David and Marianna Fisher University in the US, while he was also a professor of African Studies at Brown University.

"He was not called the father of African literature for nothing," said Zimunya. "He pioneered fiction writing in Africa. He was the early father of critical thought and wrote for African liberation. As a lecturer, he broke the path in teaching in oversees universities in England, the US and other parts of the world."

Prominent writer Shimmer Chinodya said Achebe was a pioneer in using the English language to describe the African cosmology.

"His works were a protest against the portrayal of the African man by European writers. He wrote Things Fall Apart in protest to the novel Mr Johnson by Irish writer Joyce Kerry and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad that portrayed Africans as baboons, apes and monkeys. Here was a man who was writing about his spirits in English and that was an inspiration for most African writers. He empowered the African writer to use English language to write about their own world," Chinodya said.

Virginia Phiri said it was indeed a sad day for Africa.

"Achebe inspired us all. He added flavour to African literature. It is a great loss to African literature and the world as a whole."

Professor Wiseman Magwa said Achebe made many understand what it meant to be African writers.

"His book Things Fall Apart tackled the misery caused by English language to the African culture and traditions. We remember him for placing Africa at the centre of the world that African should be at centre of the world view. Achebe helped define what it is to be an African writer, in fact we are all disciples of grandfather of African literature," he said.

Achebe's book Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, is considered the most widely read in modern African literature after it sold over 12 million copies.

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