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“A writer in whose company the prison walls fell down.” —Nelson Mandela

“... Let me say that I do think decency and civilization would insist that the writer take sides with the powerless. Clearly, there’s no moral obligation to write in any particular way. But there is a moral obligation, I think, not to ally oneself with power against the powerless. I think an artist, in my definition of that word, would not be someone who takes sides with the emperor against his powerless subjects.” — Chinua Achebe

Celebrating the Life of

Chinua Achebe A LIFE OF PURPOSE november 16, 1930–march 21, 2013


C E L E B R AT I N G H I S S P I R I T

Love Song (for Anna) Bear with me my love In the hour of my silence; The air is crisscrossed By loud omens and songbirds Fearing reprisals of middle day Have hidden away their notes Wrapped up in leaves Of cocoyam . . .What song shall I Sing to you my love when A choir of squatting toads Turns the stomach of day with Goitrous adoration of an infested Swamp and purple-headed Vultures at home stand Sentry on the rooftop? I will stand only in waiting Silence your power to bear My dream for me in your quiet Eyes and wrap the dust of our blistered Feet in golden anklets ready For the return someday of our Banished dance.


Celebration of the Life of

Chinua Achebe


“What I can say is that it was clear to many of us that an indigenous African literary renaissance was overdue. A major objective was to challenge stereotypes, myths, and the image of ourselves and our continent, and to recast them through stories—prose, poetry, essays, and books for our children. That was my overall goal.” —CHINUA ACHEBE, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra


Chinualumogu Achebe November 16, 1930 – March 21, 2013

CHINUA ACHEBE, fifth of his parents’ six children, was raised in a Christian evangelical family in the large village of Ogidi, one of the first centers of Anglican missionary work in Igboland, Eastern Nigeria. He attended Government College, in Umuahia and University College in Ibadan, graduating BA (London) in 1953. His first career, in radio, ended abruptly in 1966 when he left his position as Director of External Broadcasting, Lagos, during the national upheaval and massacres that led to the Biafran War. He narrowly escaped confrontation with armed soldiers who believed that his recently published novel, A Man of the People, implicated him in Nigeria’s first military coup. His career in academia began in 1967 with his appointment as Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in the eastern part of the country, which was soon to become the short-lived Republic of Biafra. He and his family lived in that enclave throughout the war, although he made a few lecture and diplomatic visits abroad. From 1972 to 1975 he taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, as Professor of English, and from 1975 to 1976 at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, as University Professor of English, in succession to Rex Warner, the English writer and classicist. Achebe took early retirement from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1981 and was made Emeritus Professor in 1985. To mark his sixtieth year, in 1990 the university hosted an international symposium for writers, scholars, and critics, from


February 12–14. He received a citation from the Soviet Academy of Sciences on the occasion, and the university town of Nsukka renamed a major street after him. Since then, three major Nigerian roads have been named after him. He published novels, short stories, essays, and children’s books. Achebe was the recipient of over forty honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria, and the United States, including Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the Open University, and Brown University. He was awarded the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, an Honorary Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Nigerian National Order of Merit (Nigeria’s highest honor for academic work), Italy’s prestigious International Nonino Prize, and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. In 2007, he won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize. This was followed in 2010 by one of the largest and most prestigious awards in the arts, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. He also received the National Art Club’s Medal of Honor for Literature and served on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions. Achebe is regarded as the father of modern African writing. In 1992 he became the first living author to be included in the prestigious Alfred A. Knopf Everyman’s Library collection. Many writers view his work as being instrumental in concretizing their own literary visions. Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa writes that Achebe “helped me steal back myself. Although sometimes the right hand wrestles the left, you showed me there’s a time for reed flutes and another for machetes . . . ” Margaret Atwood describes him as “a magical writer—one of the greatest of the twentieth century.” Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer writes that “Mr. Achebe is a novelist who makes you laugh—and then catch your breath in horror . . . Achebe is gloriously gifted with the magic of an ebullient, generous, great talent.” Another Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison, put it this way: “African literature is incomplete and unthinkable without the works of Chinua Achebe. For passion, intellect, and crystalline prose, he is unsurpassed.” For Poet Laureate Maya Angelou, Things Fall Apart is a book in which “all readers meet their brothers, sisters, parents and friends and themselves along Nigerian roads. I, too, find myself among its pages as accurately as I see my mirror reflection.” John Updike declares that “Things Fall Apart is a great book, and everything Achebe writes bespeaks a great, brave, kind, human spirit.” For John Edgar Wideman, “it’s as if the great antiquity, wisdom, poise, and dignity of traditional African culture begins to speak to me through the eloquent voices of a [village] elder.” President Nelson Mandela writes that Achebe is a “freedom fighter,” an author “in whose company the prison walls fell down.”


In 2008, Things Fall Apart marked its fiftieth year, and several conferences and events were held across the globe in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, to celebrate the author and his canonical first novel. Coinciding with this milestone was the completion of a new book of autobiographical essays called The Education of a British Protected Child, published a year later, on October 6, 2009. In March 2009, Chinua Achebe visited the University of Notre Dame to deliver the 2009 Blessed Pope John XXIII Lecture Series in Theology and Culture. The three-part lecture was on “The Igbo and their Perception of God, Human Beings and Creation.” This theological treatise is seen by some literary critics as both a major thematic departure for Achebe, as well as a homecoming of sorts, given that he studied theology, history, and literature at the University College, Ibadan, as a student. In September, 2009, Achebe was named the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, where he served in the Department of Africana Studies and oversaw the Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa— an initiative developed by Achebe in keeping with his life’s work to foster greater knowledge of Africa. The literary world was abuzz in 2012 with the news that Achebe, on the fifty-second anniversary of Nigeria’s independence, and the forty-second anniversary of the end of the Biafran war, published a major opus, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. It details a chronological history of events that led to, occurred during, and took place immediately after one of the bloodiest wars in history which claimed about 2 million lives. His wife, Christie Chinwe Achebe, nee Okoli, earned degrees from the University of London, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has been a professor of education at Nsukka since 1988 and of psychology at Bard College since 1997. They have four children, Chinelo, Ikechukwu, Chidi, and Nwando; and six grandchildren, Chochi, Chino, Chidera, CJ (Chinua Jr.) Nnamdi, and Zeal.


Chinua Achebe

at a Glance

EDUCATION

University College, Ibadan, 1948–1953 BA (London) 1953

TEACHING POSITIONS HELD

Brown University, 2010–2013 David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies Bard College, 1990–2009 Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Literature Dartmouth College, January–March 1990 Montgomery Fellow and Visiting Professor of English City College, City University of New York, 1989 Visiting Distinguished Professor of English University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1987–1988 Fulbright Professor of African Studies Anambra State University of Technology, Enugu, 1986–1988 Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council

University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1985–2013 Professor Emeritus of English University of Guelph, 1984 Visiting Professor of English University of California, Los Angeles, 1984 Regents Professor of English University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1976–1983 Professor of English University of Connecticut, 1975–1976 University Professor of English University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1972–1975 Visiting Professor of English University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1967–72 Senior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies


“To me, being an intellectual doesn’t mean knowing about intellectual issues; it means taking pleasure in them.” — CHINUA ACHEBE HONORARY DOCTORATES

Southampton University, England, 1974, D.Litt.

Westfield State University, Massachusetts, 1992, D.Litt.

Stirling University, Scotland, 1975, D. Univ.

Colgate University, U.S.A., 1993, D.H.L.

Prince Edward Island University, Canada, 1976, LL.D.

Fitchburg State College, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 1994, D.Litt.

Dartmouth College, U.S.A, 1972, D.Litt.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S.A., 1979, D.H.L. University of Ife, Nigeria, 1979, D.Litt. University of Kent, England, 1981, D.Litt.

State University of New York, Binghamton, New York, U.S.A., 1996, D.Litt. Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, U.S.A., 1996, D.Litt.

University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria, 1981, D.Litt.

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 1996, D.Litt.

Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, Canada, 1984, D.Litt.

Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A., 1997, D.Litt.

University of Guelph, Canada, 1984, D.Litt.

Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, U.S.A., 1997, D.Litt.

Franklin Pierce College, New Hampshire, U.S.A., 1985, D.Litt. Lagos State University, Nigeria, 1988, D.Litt.

Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio, U.S.A., 1999, D.Litt.

Westfield College, Westfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 1989, D.H.L.

Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A., 1999, D.Litt.

Open University, Great Britain, 1989, D.Litt. University of Ibadan, Nigeria, 1989, D.Litt.

University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, 2000, D.Litt.

Georgetown University, U.S.A., 1990, LL.D.

Haverford College, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 2001, D.Litt.

University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 1991, LL.D.

Cape Town University, South Africa, 2002, D.Litt.

Skidmore College, U.S.A., 1991, D.Litt.

Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey, U.S.A., 2002. D.H.L

The New School for Social Research, U.S.A., 1991, D.H.L. Hobart and William Smith Colleges, U.S.A., 1991, D.H.L.

University of Massachusetts, Boston, U.S.A., 2006, D.Litt. University of Toronto, Canada, 2006, D.Litt.

Marymount Manhattan College, U.S.A., 1991, D.H.L.

University of Sokoto, Nigeria, 2007, D.Litt.

City College, City University of New York, U.S.A., 1992, D.Litt.

Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria, 2009, D.Litt. Lesley University, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 2010, D.Litt.


Nigerian National Order of Merit, 1979 Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, London, 1981 Founding President, Association of Nigerian Authors, 1981 Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1982 Member, Royal Society of Literature, 1983 Commonwealth Foundation Senior Visiting Practitioner, 1983 Hon. Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1983 Commonwealth Foundation Award, 1984 Callaloo Award, 1989 Chinua Achebe Day, May 25, 1989, proclaimed by the President of the Borough of Manhattan, New York City

Margaret Wrong Memorial Prize, 1959

Member, seven-man International Jury appointed by the Indian Government to award the annual Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, 1989–92

Nigerian National Trophy, 1960

Member, Academy of Sciences, USSR, 1990

Rockefeller Fellowship, 1960

Major street in university town of Nsukka renamed Chinua Achebe Road in 1990.

OTHER HONORS (SELECT LIST)

Langston Hughes Medallion, 1962 UNESCO Fellowship, 1963 Jock Campbell/New Statesman Award, 1965 Commonwealth Poetry Prize, 1972 Honorary Member, Modern Language Association, 1974

Achebe’s sixtieth year marked with an International Symposium by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, February 12–14, 1990 Visiting Fellow and Ashby Lecturer, Clare Hall, Cambridge University, 1993 International Nonino Prize, 1994

Neil Gunn International Fellow, Scottish Arts Council, 1975

Order of Kilimanjaro, awarded by African Overseas Union, Houston, Texas, 1996

Lotus Award for Afro-Asian Writers, 1975

Campion Medal, 1996

Hon. Fellow, Modern Language Association of America, 1975

Honorary Citizenship of the City of Austin, Texas, 1997


OTHER HONORS (SELECT LIST) continued

World Bank Presidential Fellows Lecturer, 1997 Honorary Vice President, Royal African Society, London, 1998 Chinua Achebe Day, February 14, 1998, proclaimed by the Mayor of the City of Washington, D.C. McMillan Lecturer, Harvard University, 1998 Founding Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Letters, 1999 Odenigbo Lecturer, Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria, 1999 National Creativity Award (NCA), Nigeria, 1999 Avenue leading to state house in Anambra State Capital, Awka, named Chinua Achebe Avenue in 1999 Achebe’s seventieth year marked with an International Symposium by Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, November 3–4, 2000 German Peace Prize, German Book Trade, 2002 Phyllis Wheatley Award, Harlem Book Fair, 2004 Associate Member, Academy of American Poets, 2004 New African selected Chinua Achebe as one of the 100 Greatest Africans Major road connecting Ogidi to Onitsha in Anambra renamed Chinua Achebe Road in 2008 Man Booker International Prize, 2007 Medal of Honor for Literature, National Arts Club, 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York. Inducted into the Nigerian Hall of Fame, 2010 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, 2010 Shortlisted for Dayton Literary Peace Prize (US) for The Education of a British-Protected Child

NOVELS

Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, 1958; New York: McDowell Obolensky, 1959; Fawcett, 1969; Doubleday/Anchor, 1994. (Over thirteen million copies in print in English. Translated into over 60 languages in every part of the world.) Several film, television, radio, and stage adaptations. Included in its entirety in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces 1992. Published in Everyman’s Library, 1992. Published by the New York Public Library’s Books of the Century, 1997. “No more important novel has been published this century” —The Scotsman, Edinburgh, 1987. Things Fall Apart was selected among the 100 Greatest Novels of All Time in Norway and England; and by Time magazine. No Longer At Ease. London: Heinemann, 1960; New York: Obolensky, 1961; Fawcett, 1969; Doubleday/ Anchor, 1994. First winner of the Governor-General’s National Trophy to mark Nigeria’s First Independence Anniversary, 1961. Over two million copies in print in English. Widely translated.


“ . . . stories are not always innocent; . . . they can be used to put you in the wrong crowd, in the party of the man who has come to dispossess you.” Arrow of God. London: Heinemann, 1964; New York: Day, 1967; Doubleday/Anchor, 1969. Winner of the first Jock Campbell/New Statesman Award, London, 1965. A Man of the People. London: Heinemann, 1966; New York: Doubleday/Anchor, 1967. In Anthony Burgess’s, Ninety-nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939 (London: Allison & Busby, 1984). Anthills of the Savannah. London: Heinemann, 1987; Picador, 1988; New York: Doubleday/Anchor, 1988. “Achebe’s most complex, enigmatic, and impressive work yet”—New Statesman, London 1987. Nominee for Booker Prize, London, 1987 The African Trilogy. London: Picador, 1988. (Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God in one volume); New York: Everyman’s Library, 2010 HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHIES

There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. New York, London: Penguin Press, 2012 SHORT STORIES

The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories. Onitsha: Etudo Ltd., 1962 Girls at War and Other Stories. London: Heinemann, 1972; New York: Anchor, 1991 African Short Stories, jt. ed. London: Heinemann, 1985 Contemporary African Short Stories, jt. ed. London: Heinemann, 1985

— CHINUA ACHEBE

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Chike and the River. Cape Town: Cambridge University Press, 1966; New York: Anchor, 2011 How the Leopard Got His Claws. Enugu: Nwamife, 1972 The Flute. Enugu: Fourth Dimension, 1983 The Drum. Enugu: Fourth Dimension, 1983 POETRY

Beware Soul Brother and Other Poems. London: Heinemann, 1972 Aka Weta: An Anthology of Igbo Poems, jt. ed. Nsukka: Okike, 1982 Another Africa (with Robert Lyons). New York: Doubleday/Anchor, 1998 Collected Poems’. New York: Anchor, 2004 CRITICISM/ESSAYS

Morning Yet on Creation Day. London: Heinemann, 1975 The Trouble with Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth Dimension, 1983; London: Heinemann, 1984 Hopes and Impediments. London: Heinemann, 1988; New York: Doubleday/Anchor, 1989 Home and Exile. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000; New York: Anchor, 2001 The Education of a British-Protected Child. New York: Alfred A. Knopf/Anchor, 2009


EDITOR/PUBLISHER

Founding Editor/Publisher, Okike: An African Journal of New Writing, 1972 Uwa Ndi Igbo: A bilingual journal of Igbo life and culture Founding Editor, African Writers Series, London: Heinemann, 1962–72 (first 100 titles) EXHIBITIONS

Another Africa. Photographs by Robert Lyons, Poems by Chinua Achebe. Silver Eye Center for Photography and Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. November 6, 2002–January 18, 2003. SELECTED BOOK-LENGTH STUDIES OF ACHEBE

Carroll, David. Chinua Achebe: Novelist, Poet, Critic. London: Macmillan Press; New York: St. Martins Press, 1980 Coussy, Denise. L’oeuvre de Chinua Achebe. Paris: Presence Africaine, 1985 Ezenwa-Ohaeto. Chinua Achebe: A Biography. Oxford: James Currey Ltd.; Bloomington; Indiana University Press, 1997 Gikandi, Simon. Reading Chinua Achebe. London: James Currey Ltd.; Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann, 1991 Innes, C. L. Chinua Achebe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990 Innes, C. L., and Bernth Lindfors, eds. Critical Perspectives on Chinua Achebe. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents, 1978; London: Heinemann, 1979 Killam, G. D. The Writings of Chinua Achebe. London: Heinemann, 1977 Lindfors, Bernth, ed. Approaches to Teaching Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1991 Lindfors, Bernth, ed. Conversations with Chinua Achebe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997

Lindfors, Bernth, and Bala Kothandaraman, eds. South Asian Responses to Chinua Achebe. New Delhi: Prestige Books International, 1993 Muoneke, Romanus Okey. Art, Rebellion, and Redemption. New York: Peter Lang, 1994 Petersen, K. H., and Anna Rutherford, eds. Chinua Achebe: A Celebration. Oxford and Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann, 1991 Turkington, Kate. Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart. London: Arnold, 1977 Wren, Robert M. Achebe’s World: The Historical and Cultural Context of the Novels of Chinua Achebe. Washington D.C.: Three Continents; Harlow: Longman, 1980 SELECTED LISTINGS

New Encyclopedia Britannica Who’s Who International Who’s Who Writers and Authors Who’s Who 1000 Makers of the Twentieth Century (Sunday Times, London), 1991 New York Public Library’s Books of the Century, 1996 Current Biography, 1992 Contemporary Novelists Contemporary Poets International Who’s Who in Poetry Africa South of the Sahara The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary (Encyclopedic Edition) Cambridge History of English Literature


“Writing has always been a serious business for me. I felt it was a moral obligation. A major concern of the time was the absence of the African voice. Being part of that dialogue meant not only sitting at the table but effectively telling the African story from an African perspective— in full earshot of the world.” —CHINUA ACHEBE, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra


Survivors Include Professor Christie Chinwe Achebe, wife Dr. Chinelo Achebe Ejueyitchie, daughter Dr. Ikechukwu Achebe, son Dr. Chidi Achebe, son Professor Nwando Achebe, daughter Mr. Tosan Ejueyitchie, son-in-law Dr. Mimi Achebe, daughter-in-law Dr. Folu Ogundimu, son-in-law Miss Chochi Ejueyitchie, granddaughter Miss Chino Ekwueme, granddaughter Miss Chidera Ejueyitchie, granddaughter Master CJ (Chinua Jr.) Achebe, grandson Master Nnamdi Achebe, grandson Master Zeal Achebe, grandson Ezinne Mrs. Zinobia Ikpeze, sister Engr. Augustine Achebe, brother Mrs. Kate Obienu, sister-in-law Mrs. Elizabeth Onuorah, sister-in-law Mrs. Matilda Achebe, sister-in-law Professor Nnaemeka Ikpeze, nephew Dr. Emeka Achebe, nephew Mr. Afam Okocha, nephew Mr. Chu-Chu Achebe, nephew Mr. Uche Okoli, nephew For his nephews Dame Ngozi Ezedum, niece Mrs. Chinwe Okereke, niece Dr. Ngozi Achebe, niece Mrs. Ngozi Onu, niece Dame Nkechi Ikpeze, niece Ms. Uzo Okoli, niece For his nieces


Message from Christie CHINUALUMOGU To a simple man of few but profound words To a caring human being To a loving spirit To a thoughtful and peaceful family man Who always put others first To a patient husband YOUR silence is pregnant YOUR humor is kindly I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU I married a man without facade He spoke Life with his tongue and pen I married an indomitable spirit He NEVER complained about his circumstance He channeled that energy in the service of mankind to the very end I married a man whose gratitude to the world’s constant outpouring of goodwill Was a quiet response, “ARINZE UNU” I AM GRATEFUL TO GOD THAT HE BROUGHT US TOGETHER To share your overall goal: “to challenge the stereotypes, myths, and image of ourselves and our continent” indelibly “recast through BRILLIANT stories, prose, poetry, essays, and books for our children” May you even in death continue to touch lives—BIKO NANULU ANYI OGU— Achebe May we continue to advance the path you set for us And learn to do so delicately but without fear or favor Your passing was so peaceful So effortless So serene and gentle (in character perhaps) You left an inexplicable PEACE that keeps me strong and comforted May the Lord of all creation fold you in his bosom May He find it in His favor to use you “to grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s body may show in their lives what they profess in their faith.” AMEN.


Messages from His Children From Chinelo Literary Icon, Father of African letters, Eagle on Iroko, Ugonabo . . . All I know is that my father is gone, and I’m heartbroken . . . I watched my mother and sister shake in grief by my father’s bedside In deep pain and shock, my brothers reached for our father’s pictures Searching obituaries, tears spilling over at sudden memories The condolence calls began almost immediately Countless messages pouring in Numb, I curled up in bed Where was my Daddy? He was with us just minutes ago . . . Returning to the house he shared with my mother in Rhode Island I slowly walked up the stairs to my father’s bedroom suite, missing his quiet voice Experiencing the strangeness of not seeing him on his wheelchair, smiling, reaching out to hug I cannot take his gentle presence for granted again The room’s the way it’s always been Our mother preserved the neatness, peacefulness, serenity even, of this space Here, I imagine Daddy going through his daily motions A frown of concentration, a wry smile on his face I remember how . . . As children, my Dad would tell us stories—Igbo folk tales that we never tired of The shelves in our library were filled with books from all over the world Yet, the stories of trickster tortoise, mbekwu, and umu anu m’anu Of humans journeying to ani mmuo, mesmerized us These were tales handed down to us from Mama Nnukwu, to our dad and his siblings To anchor our generation to the Igbo imagination And then our Dad would carry us, one by one, to tuck into bed. My head nestled comfortably in the curve of his neck Under the spell of deep sleep I was safe, and at peace with the world


I remember how . . . During the Biafran war, on leave from his frequent travels Daddy taught us how to make a tiny oven out of the rich, red mud of Okporo When we were done, he whipped up pancakes to our great awe And watched our excited feast with a contented smile My heart is broken, but I also rejoice For the truly wonderful blessings God showered on Dad and his family Chinua Achebe lived an exemplary life Humble, loving, kind . . . a genius The outpouring of grief and support at his death is testament to the love he shared with the world He was all that, and then he was our Dad

From Ik (Ike) TRIBUTE TO MY FATHER I could tell about your fame, but that is well known I could write about your power, but many have felt it I could sing you a dirge, but you are alive in your work and good deeds So I will tell of my earliest memory of you, my father It was during the Biafran war, I could not have been more than a few years old. I had been bedridden with a high fever for what seemed like many days. Then, one morning, you took me up and carried me on your back and began a long journey on foot. There were no cars and I clung to your neck and rested my weary frame and felt you trudge on determinedly. We set out in the cool of the morning; passed along open spaces, and avenues shaded by giant trees and broad leaves. I recall that we walked many many miles—you carried me many miles—because the


journey took us the better part of the day. When you tired, we stopped and you set me down. But not for long, because you would scoop me up again, and encourage me, as if I were the one doing the carrying and you the one carried. We arrived at our destination—a makeshift hospital in a refugee camp—where I received a shot that revived me. And I remember the journey home. I could tell about your fame, but that is well known I could write about your power, but many have felt it I could sing you a dirge, but you are alive in Christ So I will tell of my earliest memory of you, my father

From Chidi A LIFE WELL SPENT— A TRIBUTE TO A REMARKABLE SPIRIT AND FATHER The gift of life is a precious, fleeting blessing. For me, our spiritual calling is to worship God in all that we do. That worship often takes on a myriad of forms and shapes. Among God’s creation there are those that truly, bolstered by remarkable talent, and an impressive dedication to their life’s calling, illuminate for the entire world, the meaning of this worship My father, Chinualumogu Achebe is such a person.1 The journey that would lead my father far and to unprecedented, dizzying world acclaim started with his parents—Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Iloegbunam— early Christian converts who dedicated their lives to spreading the Gospel and instilling Christian values into their own children. This Christ Journey would for my father continue in various schools, but most importantly, would resonate in his own personal Chi. It is this confluence of agreement between his personal Chi and the Christian tenets he grew up with, like the waters of the Niger and Benue at Lokoja, that would result in a revolutionary, symphonic fusion of Western and African traditional literary forms; that not only would define his trademark narrative style, but give birth to his remarkable, indelible contribution to the worldwide literary canon.

1

“Is” because if you share my belief that the essence of “the person” is his or her spirit, then surely Dad “is.”


We perceive this God-given genius—and there are many examples—through my father’s novels, poetry, children’s books, literary criticism, and his work with the African Writers Series—that established a whole generation of writers throughout the African continent. His uncanny gift of prognostication, human and civil rights work, but above all, his kindness, gentleness and legendary humility remind us that God is in tune with his Chi.2 Dad’s over-fifty-year marriage to my mother, Christiana Okoli Achebe, may very well be my father’s greatest blessing and wisest decision. That they had a successful marriage is an understatement that deserves commemorative status. Blessed with four children and six grandchildren so far, this union, my siblings and I would realize, was built on a bedrock of God’s love and unshakable by adversity, fame, and life’s challenges. A lasting lesson for me is the understanding that the institution of marriage, like communion, possesses a spiritual, divine significance. I grasp a deeper appreciation of my father’s purpose-driven life when I remember how he weathered a life-threatening motor vehicle accident in Nigeria and continued his life’s work with dignity and his characteristic wit and poise. I perhaps most profoundly beheld my father’s worship of God through his lifelong advocacy for the dispossessed and oppressed. He wrote extensively about racial and ethnic bigotry, graft, political ineptitude and social injustice and leaves behind a reputation as one who lived as Christ taught us to be—formidable advocates for the “least amongst us”—the downtrodden, powerless, and voiceless everywhere. Daddy, your gift to me is your life well spent in the spirit of GOD. I thank GOD for you and your beautiful spirit—being close to it, learning from it, being loved by it, encouraged by it, supported by it, blessed by it. You are missed by millions around the world, but most deeply by those who love you the most—your family. Yours is a splendid Life Well Spent, and one I am sure God would like others to emulate.3 Go and rest with our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 3

Ditto Ditto


From Nwando A LETTER TO MY DAD My dearest daddy, How does one say farewell to an incredible human being, the most amazing father that ever lived? How do I heal my broken heart? Daddy, is it selfish for me to yearn to hear your soft, kind, and nurturing voice calling to your “Dom Dom?” My dearest daddy, must I never again hear your soft, sweet, voice in conversation with me? Daddy nkem, the pain is too much to bear. You lived a blessed life; you were a brilliant and accomplished writer. But, the very depth of your brilliance was revealed in your interaction with your family. You always and in every way put us first. Never would a day pass without me knowing, feeling, reveling, in your all-embracing love. You were always there to lift me up, to offer a shoulder to cry on when times got rough, and to celebrate my successes and accomplishments when times were good. Daddy, you were as good a friend and mentor as a father could be. Ours was an effortless relationship, built on mutual trust, respect, and openness. It was your firm and abiding belief that were I ever to contemplate doing something that I would not, could not, tell you; then, I was contemplating something wrong. Because you were a public figure, a great number of professional photographers captured your likeness. These pictures remain for prosperity, and I, for one, am most grateful for this treasure. However, only few photographers were able to capture the essence of your being, your joyous smile, your heartfelt laughter. Maybe it was because you saved those precious moments for the few that were closest to your heart; the ones who loved you and you loved so dearly. Daddy, I miss your smile; the deep throat laughter that would emanate from the depths of your being whenever we sat together as a family and shared pleasant memories of the past or present. You cherished those moments—those times of togetherness, of oneness, that brought all your children and grandchildren together under one roof. Daddy, for as far back as I can remember we spent such quality time together. You were not simply a father in name, you were a present father—a father who was hands on with each one of his four children and showed us in so many ways just how much you loved and cared for us. When I was a youngster, I never went to bed without a goodnight kiss from you. It was you who would wake me up in the dead of every night, cradle me in your arms, and see that I made it to the loo. During my


childhood years, it was the promise of two stories—one on the way to school and the other on the way back—that propelled me to attend a school that I did not like. Nighttime was also story time: you would first read to us; then you would regale us with the tales and songs of mbe, the trickster. I have warm memories of us sitting together in a candlelit circle in the basement of our Amity Street home. Such were our bedtime rituals when we were growing up. In the more recent years, our communication was kept up mainly via phone; and the occasional handwritten letter. This was because, Daddy, you did not do email. You were, however, always in a hurry to get off the phone because it was your firm belief that phones should only be used to communicate important happenings. I would string you along, with the tease that, for a writer, iku gist, was not your thing! Living in Michigan meant that I lived too far away from you and Mommy. But I tried my best to visit often. Each time I walked through our family living room door, you instantaneously rewarded me with your smile, your laughter, and your quiet “O Dom Dom?” communicated your heartfelt “welcome home.” Daddy, you were not only a wonderful father, you were a grandfather who cherished each and every one of your grandchildren. Chochi, Chino, Chidera, CJ, Nnamdi, and Zeal are forever blessed to have known you, interacted with you, and felt your unwavering love. For me, your love was constant, it was strong, it was reassuring, it was kind. And for this, I will forever thank the God above for allowing me to be raised, loved, and nurtured by a father who not only loved unconditionally, but made no distinction between his boy and girl children. Chinelo, Ik, Chidi, and I were equal in your eyes and very much loved by you. And each of us is a living testament of that love. You treated everyone with dignity and respect. The last days of your life were a testament to this: as each nurse entered your hospital room, you asked in a low and husky voice, “What is your name?” When they answered, you said in as quiet a voice as you asked, “I would like to thank you for taking care of me.” Daddy, each one of those Brigham and Women’s Hospital nurses were moved by the words of a critically ill man, who never complained, but always remembered to say “thank you.” My dearest daddy, I wipe away my tears with the knowledge that we will one day meet again. I look forward to that day. I look forward to hearing you call to your Dom Dom. I long for your warm embrace. Daddy nkem, Ugonabo, Ikejimba, naa n’udo. Until we see each other again. With all my love, Nwando (aka Dom Dom)


Messages from His Sons- and Daughter-in-Law From Tosan My father-in-law was a towering figure. He was the embodiment of dignity, kindness, generosity, and simplicity. By watching him I learnt that you can be great yet humble. That it was okay to have great means yet have modest material possessions. That you can be a great wordsmith yet express yourself in simple and elegant words. He was quite aware of his stature but he never used it to intimidate. He was happiest when he was around his family, especially his grandchildren. He would sit quietly and listen to everyone. He would smile, laugh, and chip in a little nugget of wisdom every once in a while. While we all strive to follow in the legacy of excellence he left us, we should not be discouraged if we fall short. He was special. He was one of a generation of the exceptionally gifted and blessed. I am ever thankful for the privilege of being a member of his wonderful family.

From Folu A TRIBUTE TO A FATHER If Chinua Achebe Hath Another Name, It might be Love For I Bore Witness to Chinua Achebe, The Family Man The Unmistakable Gleam in the Eyes at Christie [Achebe], his Anna Put to Shame Budding Lovers of Our Time The Protective Embrace of Chinelo, Ike, Chidi, and Nwando Make the Eagle Weep of Jealousy Youth Sprang Anew at the Sight of Chochi, Chino, Chidera, CJ, Nnamdi, and Zeal The Second Generation of Thy Loins Gave Much Joy, Pride, and Hope As Thy Boundless Love for The Giant Above the Equator If Chinua Achebe Hath Another Name, It might be Humility A Giant Amongst Mortals, Thou Showed How the Industry, Tenacity, Sting, and Self-Effacing Presence of the


Ant Can Hold Sway and Command the Respect of Man The Gods Once Waxed Eloquently Their Vibrations Coursing Effortlessly Through Thy Voice Now The Eagle May No Longer Perch On The Iroko But the Branches Spurn By The Giant Have Sprung Many Tributaries that Produce Enduring Stories For Thou Once Wrote It Is Only The Story Can Continue Beyond The War And Warrior The Story Is Our Escort; Without It, We Are Blind. Ugonabo, Chinualumogu Achebe, Sun re o; Rest In Peace.

From Mimi IN CHRIST HE RESIDES I had better than the best father-in-law I could have ever envisioned. He was kind, he was warm, he was quiet, he was gentle, he was deep, he was unimaginably insightful. In my father-in-law I got more than a loving father-in-law. Few people, in their lifetimes, influence the lives of others, in the way that my father-in-law did. I say this with firsthand experience. He influenced the lives of millions around the world and my life beyond measure. Because of my father-in-law, I recognize the power of the written word, the influence of a story, and how a story, true or false, builds perceptions. For this reason, I enjoy the privilege of a superior understanding of the complexity of the world around me. A priceless gift he has left me and one for which I will always be grateful. I feel blessed to have had my father-in-law. This requires emphasis: He was kind, he was warm, he was quiet, he was gentle, he was deep, he was insightful. It is hard to conceive of his not being here. It is hard for me, it is hard for his grandchildren. What a loss for us all . . . He lives on in his children and grandchildren. He was Blessed. He is Blessed. In Christ he resides.


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Messages from his Grandchildren From Chochi Many respond with wide eyes and slight disbelief when I tell them who my grandfather is, “No way, I mean, he’s like . . . famous!” I’ll often respond with a dismissive wave of the hand and shake my head; he was still just my Grandpa. I’ve spent much of my young life trying to assert and reassure everyone I meet that my grandfather is “just” my Grandpa, no more, no less. Perhaps I’ve been wrong. A grandfather is no small thing, and mine was hardly one to talk down and qualify. Truth be told, my grandfather was a remarkable man. He was and is a source of pride and amazement for me. He, along with my remarkable family, motivates me to be the best me that I can be. A grandfather is a blessing; a grandfather is a gift. When I remember my grandfather, I remember all the gifts he’s giving me. Sure, I remember the physical toys and books wrapped in shiny paper and accompanied by heartfelt cards with eloquent and encouraging messages, but more importantly, I remember the gifts that couldn’t be packaged neatly and put under Christmas trees. Today, it’s those gifts that have truly been invaluable to me. One birthday, my grandfather gave me an untamable love and appreciation for literature that has stayed with me ever since. One Christmas, my grandfather taught me the meaning of patience and responsibility. Another birthday, my grandfather taught me the importance of perseverance. One summer, after decades of marriage, my grandmother and grandfather taught me what real love is. The sad thing is, I hadn’t realized and been able to thank him until now. My toys may gather dust and the pages of my books may tear but these gifts will stay with me forever, just like the memory of my Grandpa. My grandfather was a remarkable man, whose life touched so many, and to me, he was the greatest gift of all, and I will thank God forever for him. Rest in peace, Grandpa, thank you so much for the endless gifts you’ve given me. I pray that I too may grow to always be a gift and blessing to those around me.

From Chino To say that my grandpa accomplished a lot in his life could not be a bigger understatement. He has done more than I can think possible for anyone to achieve in a lifetime. It’s strange to think that so many people all over the world are grieving my grandfather’s death, not just my family. And most of them have never even


met him. They know him only through his books. I consider it a great blessing to know that he was so well loved by so many others. But to me, he was still just my grandpa. I remember the grandpa that used to always compliment us on our decorating skills when my cousins and I would put lights on the Christmas tree. I remember the grandpa that would tell my mother to be more gentle when I would start crying while she was braiding my hair. I remember the grandpa that would give my cousins and me money to go shopping for random things and would always be pleased with our selections when we got home to show him; the grandpa that would watch the news with my grandma every day after dinner. I know that many people are mourning my grandfather’s death, but there is so much more to my grandpa that most people didn’t get to see. Most people will remember him as a writer of African literature, but personally, it is the special things that he would do that I will always remember about my grandpa. I am so glad that I got the chance to know this side of my grandfather, not just the man who wrote books.

From Chidera When I remember my grandfather I remember the times when my older sister and my cousin, Chino, used to put on performances that we had been rehearsing and how we planned it in the car and we would giggle and have fun and know that our grandparents would appreciate it, and that we’d see the smile on grandpa and grandma’s face and it would all be worth it. It was always worth it. And how I would feel important when I closed the elevator door for grandpa, how he would say “alright thank you . . .” I could write on and on about my time with grandpa and how amazing and how humble my grandfather was and how lucky I am to be his granddaughter and know him. All I can really say is that I loved my grandfather and I always will.


From Zeal

From Nnamdi

From CJ (Chinua Jr.)


“It is the storyteller who makes us what we are, who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that the survivors must have— otherwise their surviving would have no meaning.” — CHINUA ACHEBE


Message from Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of Nigeria


Message from John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana


Message from Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, President of South Africa


Resolution from the New York State Senate New York Senate LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION mourning the death of paramount novelist Chinua Achebe, founder and pioneer of African literature WHEREAS, It is the sense of this Legislative Body to pay tribute to the lives of those esteemed individuals of international renown who distinguished themselves through their life’s work; and WHEREAS, Foremost novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe, died on Thursday, March 21, 2013, at the age of 82; and WHEREAS, Born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, on November 16, 1930, Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic; he was best known for his 1958 novel, THINGS FALL APART, selling over 12 million copies around the world, and having been translated into 50 languages, making him the most paraphrased African writer of all time; and WHEREAS, Raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria, Chinua Achebe excelled academically and earned a scholarship for undergraduate studies; he became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a college student; and WHEREAS, After graduation, Chinua Achebe worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos; he gained worldwide attention for THINGS FALL APART; his later novels include: NO LONGER AT EASE (1960), ARROW OF GOD (1964), A MAN OF THE PEOPLE (1966), and ANTHILLS OF THE SAVANNAH (1987); and WHEREAS, When the region of Biafra broke away from Nigeria in 1967, Chinua Achebe became a supporter of Biafran independence and acted as ambassador for the people of the new nation; the war ravaged the populace, and as starvation and violence took its toll, he appealed to the people of Europe and the Americas for assistance; and WHEREAS, When the Nigerian government retook the region in 1970, Chinua Achebe involved himself in political parties, but soon resigned due to frustration over the corruption and elitism he witnessed, thereby deciding to devote himself to academia; he lived in the United States for several years in the 1970s, and returned there in 1990 after a car accident left him partially disabled; and WHEREAS, Chinua Achebe’s novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of Western and traditional African values during and after the colonial era; his style relies heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory; he also published a number of short stories, children’s books, and essay collections; and WHEREAS, A David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, Chinua Achebe worked up until the time of his death; and WHEREAS, New York’s Bard College, with a distinguished history of supporting Chinua Achebe’s work and legacy, will continue to be a primary home for his projects; and WHEREAS, Professor Achebe’s global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a critical thinker and essayist who has written extensively on questions of the role of culture in Africa along with the social and political significance of aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa; and WHEREAS, Chinua Achebe distinguished himself in his profession and by his sincere dedication and substantial contribution to the welfare of his community; and WHEREAS, Chinua Achebe’s commitment to excellence, and his spirit of humanity, carried over into all fields of enterprise, including charitable and civic endeavors; and WHEREAS, Chinua Achebe is survived by his wife, Christie, their children, Chinelo, Ikechukwu, Chidi, and Nwando as well as his grandchildren, Chochi, Chino, Chidera, C.J. (Chinua Jr.), Nnamdi and Zeal; and WHEREAS, Armed with a humanistic spirit and imbued with a sense of compassion, Chinua Achebe leaves behind a legacy which will long endure the passage of time and will remain as a comforting memory to all he served and befriended; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to mourn the death of paramount novelist Chinua Achebe, founder and pioneer of African literature; and be it further RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be transmitted to the family of Chinua Achebe.


Message from the Most Revd. and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury


Acknowledgments H.E. Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and the people of River’s State Ogidi Inwelle North America (OINA) Emeka Okeani, President, Ogidi Inwelle North America (OINA) Council of Igbo State in America (CISA) Chuks U. Okereke, President, Council of Igbo State in America (CISA) Senator Chris Ngige, ACN, Anambra Central Archbishop Anthony J. V. Obinna Rev. John Pollard Cistercian Monks Rev. Jon Strand and Rev. Paul Kolbert Rev. Kit Carlson and Rev. Andrew Shirota Father Paulinus Odozor The Doctors and Nurses of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Dr. Gary Gottlieb Professor Ruth Simmons Professor Johnnetta B. Cole Phillip Johnston Ethel (Arunne) and Chike (Nnabuenyi) Momah Rev. Dr. Daisy Obi President Leon Botstein President Christina Paxson Nneka Chuck Mike Francesca Harper Martin Schuhmacher Obiora Udechukwu Roxanne Ladd Dejuana Thompson Anchor Books Irena Vukov-Kendes, Vintage and Anchor Books Russell Perreault, Vintage and Anchor Books Anne Messitte, Vintage and Anchor Books LuAnn Walther, Vintage and Anchor Books Maria Ilardi and Laura Shaw, Graphic Designers Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency Scott Moyers, Penguin Books Management of the Andrew Mellon Auditorium


Planning Committee Governor Peter Obi, Chair Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Co-Chair Professor Uzodinma Nwala, Co-Chair Dr. Wale Okediran, Secretary Dr. Kabir Ahmed, Co-Secretary

International Organizing Committee Archbishop Desmond Tutu Toni Morrison Johnnetta B. Cole Ruth Simmons Nadine Gordimer

THE ACHEBE FAMILY REQUESTS THAT IN LIEU OF FLOWERS, CONTRIBUTIONS BE MADE TO THE CHINUA ACHEBE FOUNDATION C/O The Wylie Agency LLC 250 West 57th Street, Suite 2114 New York, N.Y. 10017 The Wylie Agency (UK) Ltd. 17 Bedford Square London WC1B 3JA

Photo credits: Front and back cover photos ©Beowulf Sheehan/Writer Pictures; Inside back cover ©Bob Wagner; Page 4 ©Jerry Bauer; Page 5 ©Mike Cohea, AP Photo/Brown University; page 17 ©Mariana Cook, photo upper left corner; page 28 cartoon, ©Nayer; all others courtesty of the Achebe Family


“A writer in whose company the prison walls fell down.” —Nelson Mandela

“... Let me say that I do think decency and civilization would insist that the writer take sides with the powerless. Clearly, there’s no moral obligation to write in any particular way. But there is a moral obligation, I think, not to ally oneself with power against the powerless. I think an artist, in my definition of that word, would not be someone who takes sides with the emperor against his powerless subjects.” — Chinua Achebe

Celebrating the Life of

Chinua Achebe A LIFE OF PURPOSE november 16, 1930–march 21, 2013

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