AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT on Chinua Achebe

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT on Chinua Achebe

Author Spotlight On Chinua Achebe

Arguably the greatest novelist to ever come from the black continent, Chinualumogu “Chinua” Achebe is a towering figure who needs no introduction whatsoever. With the African Trilogy and his Man Booker International Prize win, Achebe has cemented his name in the soil of time. It’s no surprise that the maiden edition of our “Author Spotlight” starts with the unraveling of an African literary sage of his ilk. However, with all his numerous accomplishments, it is easy to overlook certain significant events which occurred within his lifetime.

Humble Beginning
In 1948, having scored highly in the entrance examinations to the University of Ibadan, Achebe earned a scholarship to study medicine. It was not until he fell deeper in love with literary writings that he later switched to the department of English. This, of course, meant that he would have to forfeit his scholarship and pay his tuition from his own pocket. Bagging a second-class degree, Achebe was so disturbed by missing out on a first-class result that he relocated to his hometown to regroup.

Chinua Achebe

Photo accessed via WW Norton

Magnum Opus Dei – Things Fall Apart

Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, which was published two years before he turned 30 provided the blueprint for African literature. The novel paints the influence of colonialism in Nigeria in a picturesque style garnished with a stint of the Igbo culture. It excavated the realities behind the scene but the truth about the conflict between the Igbo tradition and the Christian doctrines. It is often considered as his best work and most widely read book in modern African literature. The language, the style and the uniqueness of the book made it a household name in many African homes. The universality and relevance of the book are second to none in African literature; it presents echoes from our past, shows us the details of the present anomalies on the canvas and shares in lucid ways what the future holds.

Despite being the book which began a cultural renaissance of enhancing the visibility of Africans in global literature, “Things Fall Apart” was upon publication generally ridiculed in West Africa. The book has sold over 20 million copies around the world and translated into 57 languages making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.

Contemporaries

Achebe was a writer of global relevance despite having his roots in the African heritage, his wide span of contemporaries contains literary titans from different corners of the world. The list is not limited to these outstanding writers and poets: Margaret Atwood, Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor, Christopher Okigbo, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Nadine Gordimer, J.P. Clark, Ferdynand Oyono, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Robert Gibson and Okot p’Bitek. His vast influence earned him the worldwide respect of fellow writers at the peak of his career and even after that.

Awards

A global celebrity, Achebe, received over 30 honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, South Africa, United States and others.

Achebe twice refused the honor of the Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, citing the chaotic socio-political atmosphere in the country, particularly his home-state as the reason.

Chinua Achebe

Photograph accessed via New York Times

The book, Things Fall Apart, has sold over 20 million copies around the world and translated into 57 languages making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.

Controversies

Despite his achievements, Achebe never won the Nobel Prize – a phenomenon which has widely been condemned. He has himself been ambivalent in his own feelings about this.

Following a lecture at Amherst in February 1975, during which he accused Joseph Conrad’s much-beloved book “Heart of Darkness” as promoting racist narratives of Africa, Achebe became the object of academic outrage, particularly from the white academia. In fact, immediately after his speech, it has been reported that a professor walked right up to him, screaming: How dare you! Achebe would later stand by his criticism till his death.

Death

At age 60, Chinua Achebe was involved in a ghastly motor accident which left him partially disabled for the rest of his life. The literary icon passed on during his time in the United States on March 21, 2013, at the age of 82.

Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka

Photograph accessed via Opinion Nigeria

Literary Works

Before we conclude the discourse about the father of African literature, let’s have a look at some of his works.

Novels

  • Things Fall Apart (1958)
  • No Longer at Ease (1960)
  • Arrow of God (1964)
  • A Man of the People (1966)
  • Anthills of the Savannah (1987)

Short Stories

  • Marriage is a Private Affair (1952)
  • Dead Men’s Path (1953)
  • The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories (1953)
  • The Voter (1965)
  • Civil Peace (1971)
  • Girls at War and Other Stories (including “Vengeful Creditor”) (1973)
  • African Short Stories (1985)
  • The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories (1992)

Poetry

  • Beware, Soul-Brother, and Other Poems (1971)
  • Don’t Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo (1978)
  • Another Africa (1998)
  • Collected Poems (2005)
  • Refugee Mother and Child
  • Vultures

Essays, criticism, nonfiction and political commentary

  • The Novelist as Teacher (1965)
  • An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (1975)
  • Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975)
  • The Trouble With Nigeria (1984)
  • Hopes and Impediments (1988)
  • Home and Exile (2000)
  • The Education of a British-Protected Child (2009)
  • There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra (2012)

Children’s Books

  • Chike and the River (1966)
  • How the Leopard Got His Claws (1972)
  • The Flute (1975)
  • The Drum (1978)

If you are anything like us, then you must have read his complete works twice. Alright, thrice. Fine, maybe more than four times. Who does not love Achebe? His fine writing and extraordinary use of oral tradition in passing across his message made him an unforgettable sage in the parlance of African writing.

This is a successful attempt to avoid writing an epistle about Achebe but to share a summary of his life and what his works mean to us.

 

What inspires you about Achebe? You can share with us in the comment section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kanyinsola Olorunnisola

Kanyinsola Olorunnisola

Managing Editor

 

Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is a poet, essayist and writer of fiction. He is the Managing Editor of Kreative Diadem. He writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. His writings border on the themes of unease, racism, colonialism, terror and all things familiar to the black folk. He describes his art as that specialized literary alchemy which aims to extract beauty from the frail commonplaceness of words.
His experimental works have appeared or are forthcoming on such platforms as Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, Bombay Review, Lunaris Review, African Writer, Sprinng.org, Authorpedia, Kreative Diadem, Parousia Magazine and Sampad International Journal. He was the 2016 recipient of the Albert Jungers Poetry Prize.

 

 

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LOVE TALES by Eghele Akpere

LOVE TALES by Eghele Akpere

LOVE TALES

by Eghele Akpere

It was love’s lullaby
That turned the heart blind;
To the unloved one,
The wisest lover is a fool.
 
It was love’s blindness,
That cursed the fool brave;
The lame, for her said,
I’d leap over a hill.
It was love’s whispers,
That forced the fool out of his life;
She said, I’m scared,
 Take my bullet; and he gladly did.
It was love’s sweetness,
That got the heart stuck:
Repeatedly singing,
I’d be blind, I’d be your fool.
 
Yet in love, we all fall,
Always.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 I am Eghele Akpere, I live in Warri. I am the author of a novel, Diary of a Warri Boy. I am a geoscientist, who loves discovering new things. I keep on understanding myself more, and I found out that I love poetry (for the beauty of it). I get better, as I appreciate corrections.

“Poetry is imperfect and it’s that imperfection that makes poetry beautiful” – Interview with Okwudili Nebeolisa

“Poetry is imperfect and it’s that imperfection that makes poetry beautiful” – Interview with Okwudili Nebeolisa

TABLE TALK

“Poetry is imperfect and it’s that imperfection that makes poetry beautiful” – Interview with Okwudili Nebeolisa

We recently met up with Okwudili Nebeolisa, a heavily-decorated Nigerian writer.  His manuscript, “Country” was one of the final shortlisted entries for the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets in 2016.

That same year, Nebeolisa was shortlisted for the Writivism Prize for Poetry-in-Translation and earned a coveted selection for the Ebedi Writers Residency. We discussed his beginnings, influences, abandoned projects, creative process and momentary feelings of despair. Enjoy.

KD: Can you please tell us about yourself? What was your childhood like?
 
Okwudili: My childhood was quite funny and very normal like anybody’s. I was very inquisitive and, according to my mom, I wrote on any blank sheet I could find, even the back of doctors’ prescriptions. My father loved reading; he was a fan of Achebe and he even had two books by Wole Soyinka. He read a lot of newspapers, sometimes several newspapers in a day, though he didn’t have a tertiary education. He just loved the idea of investing in someone’s thoughts. I got that reading streak from him. I don’t think I read as much as he does, though.
 
KD: At what age did you know you would follow a literary profession?
 
Okwudili: I think I started writing when I was sixteen. I was in SSS 2 at that time. But I started writing seriously two years later in my first year in the university.

Okwudili Nebeolisa

Photo accessed via Facebook

KD: You were one of four Nigerian writers selected for the Ebedi International Writers Residency in 2016. Could you describe your experience and the impact on your writing?
 
Okwudili: It was memorable. At least I got to write a complete poetry collection that got lost when I was kidnapped – but that is story for another day. I was also able to meet Rasaq Gbolahan, a wonderful poet in his own way. I was able to write some poems about Iseyin where the residency is located. I was able to have cherishable conversations with my very good friend David Ishaya Osu.
 
KD: Accept my sympathy. But what effects would you say that ordeal had on your writing? Did you at any point feel like quitting after losing such a body of work?
 
Okwudili: Of course, I felt like giving up in the beginning; but then that feeling of despair dissipates, and then you find yourself writing. I mostly wrote poems about the experience after that event, and then I began to make outlines for stories.
 
KD: How far gone is work on your first novel The Spirit House?
 
Okwudili: It was just halfway gone. That, too, went with the kidnappers. Sometimes I think that was a good sign for me to maybe discard the project.
 
KD: When you said you discarded the project, do you mean you are not going to write this particular book the same way you conceived it before it was lost, or that you don’t intend pursuing it any further?
 
Okwudili: I haven’t totally abandoned that project, but I do hope I will come back to it someday. Writers hardly totally abandon projects. I think I need some sort of luxury like the one at the Residency to return to that project.

But then, I found out that much about poetry is imperfect and it’s that imperfection that makes poetry beautiful.”

KD: You write poetry, fiction and nonfiction. When you have an idea do you immediately know the medium it will take? Of these three, do you have a favorite? Why?
Okwudili: I think, for now, my favorite is fiction, if we go by which genre I read the most, though that may change in the future. But I read across genres. It matters what I want to get across to my audience. For example, if I want it totally fictional, I write it as fiction. If I want it autobiographical or totally true, I write it as nonfiction, if I want it to be both, I normally use poetry.
 
KD: Is ‘The Pages’ in August autobiographical? To what extent do you allow memory in your writings?
 
Okwudili: Partly autobiographical, if by that you mean true. I was writing a batch of poems based on familial and personal themes. Currently, I am still working on very personal poems, trying to assess what I think of things that have happened to my parents (my mum especially), though fictionalizing some part to effect.
 
KD: Who are your favorite writers and what do you value in their works?
Okwudili: It matters across genres. In fiction, I adore Chimamanda Adichie, Marilynne Robinson, Edward P Jones, Anne Enright, Colm Tobin, Chinelo Okparanta; basically because of how they treat their novels on the character level and the relative ease with which they seem to make writing look. In nonfiction, I like Teju Cole, I like the essays of Atul Gawande and Samantha Powers. In poetry, it’s basically a thing of generation: the older generation has Louise Gluck as my favorite. I also like Wole Soyinka (though I haven’t read anything by him lately); I wish Chinua Achebe had written a lot more poetry. I like Sharon Olds, Spencer Reece, Charles Wright, Alice Oswald; in the younger generation, I love poems by Gbenga Adesina, Anthony Carelli, Mathew Dickman, Gbenga Adeoba (he has a way of saying the usual in the unusual way), Kechi Nomu, and Katharine Larson.    
 
KD: Ishion Hutchinson has said that a poem is the vehicle of reciprocal tension between what came before and what is present, not as perfect synthesis but from, and towards, memory. Would you agree with that?
 
Okwudili: That reminds me of a saying Jameson Fitzpatrick told me, ‘that prose proceeds and verse reverses’. I found out that when I am writing poetry, I am often going back to make sure there aren’t redundant statements, and in that sense I think I am trying to make sense of an event. I don’t know whether it’s reciprocal, it may be, I don’t know. But then, I found out that much about poetry is imperfect and it’s that imperfection that makes poetry beautiful.
 
KD: Thanks for your time.
 

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RATED EIGHTEEN by Olusegun Ogunmola

RATED EIGHTEEN by Olusegun Ogunmola

RATED EIGHTEEN (Remain a Child)

by Olusegun Ogunmola

I may taste the connubial meal,
Subtly dished in a LED screen;
I may force the orgasmic thrill,
Once I am ripe— only eighteen?
 
My lips may be blackened by tar
And my breath odorized by nicotine;
(I may even brush my teeth with Star®)
Since I’m already eighteen?
These blue scenes are too strong—
For my eyes which are still green,
But, though rated XXX— triply wrong—
They should be right once I’m eighteen?
 
Hangovers will rob me of my sleep,
Cancer will rip off my lungs within;
Ladies my mind will naked strip,
Because I dared to be really eighteen?
Innocence is surely not for men,
(Boys should shy away from sin);
Purity is really not for women,
Chastity is for girls under-eighteen.
 
Better I remain a child as touching evil,
Better I remain a child and stay clean;
Better I never ripen enough for this age’s people,
For here, sin is proudly rated eighteen!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

‘Segun ‘Mola (Olusegun Ogunmola) is a budding poet, singer, songwriter, and musician. He chooses to see his works as media for baring his mind on various subjects, from the perspective of his faith and convictions. He places much value on “little things”, as he believes that great things more often than not emerge from the seemingly small and insignificant ones. He is inspired primarily by personal vicissitudes, society, and relationships (with God and man). He is a graduate of University of Ilorin, Nigeria, where he studied Health Education.

ON DAYS SUCH AS TODAY  by Elujulo Oluwatobiloba

ON DAYS SUCH AS TODAY by Elujulo Oluwatobiloba

ON DAYS SUCH AS TODAY

by Elujulo Oluwatobiloba

On a day such as today
When it rains as though it would never stop
And then stops as though it never rained.
We laugh and we talk
Wasn’t it the other day we saw the girls
Playing and talking and laughing
Doing their best to play and talk all they could
Like they knew just how short time could be
Like they knew what we also now know
That soon, the rains will come again
And in that moment, I paused
They reminded me so much of us
Back then when our chests were flat
Just before we were made to know
That time in this world is not measured by
Days when it rains and when it doesn’t.
Then I look at you
This day as it rains
As you continue your narrative
about how the blue- black battered eye became yours
And it occurs that we still don’t know what measures time in this world
I stand up wiping the dust off my dress
“Nnamdi will soon be home”
We both understand what I did not say.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oluwatobiloba is a Law Student at the University of Ibadan. She is a daughter, a sister, a friend, a colleague and many other things. She loves watching Nickelodeon while sitting on a brown couch at home. She knows she is deeply loved by God and that gives her the courage to face life. She believes if she was not reading Law, she would be reading English. She loves people and their stories.

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