Hello CP-African, Happy Sunday! Do you like to read? Check out this interesting piece by one of our contributors on a topic around African literature…
By Deji Oladoye
Flapping through the pages of Chinua Achebe’s works one will come to a logical conclusion that his artistic quality is as thrilling as his illustrious “things fall apart.” Right from the very first word to the last one, Achebe carries words like noble pets. He nurses words like a mid-wife enjoys the innocence of a child in her arms. His proverbial and idiomatic exploitation stands him out as a proficient writer. In terms of figurative language, Achebe seems to be the most reliable stakeholder, who could bury the denotative into the connotative of whatsoever he wants to express. Besides, the excitement that cling readers’ interest into the tragic narration of “things fall apart” is much more derived from the care he has for words.
Achebe’s readers will agree that one of the features of his writing is the simplicity in his lexis. Unlike Wole Soyinka whose proficiency is being adored with boastful words, Achebe’s humble words in their simple form are sharp enough to pierce hearts with a great deal of interest. It is not that Soyinka’s work lack the interest of whosoever want to reader a great literature. In fact, he created his own world of literature and was crown the Noble laureate, who the whole wide world wants to make distinguish references to. Besides, these two heroes are different, different in background, custom, style and ideology. Moreover, they cannot express themselves the same way. This is really why Soyinka remains who he is today and Achebe too, is Achebe. No doubt, readers of Achebe will identify him when they come across his piece.
For those who do not know but would care to know, His 1958 debut novel, Things Fall Apart had made him a literary god abroad and an influential public intellectual at home. “Things Fall Apart,” The book that had its title extracted from Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming” unveiled the tragic story of Okonkwo in late 19th century Nigeria during the Missionary era. This particular novel had long, and till now, attained the status of a classic. Professor Wole Soyinka gave his comment on the book as the “first novel in English which spoke from the interior of an African character”.
In this work, Achebe carries his readers mind along with his pen dripping straightforward vocabularies. He uses ordinary words which are surrounded with few unusual ones to coat his deepest expression and persuades his readers with the control of his language. Take for instance, these short sentences, “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements.” Mind you, Great Achebe is well pleased with short sentences.
Another of his book that spells out the truth about his romance with words is his fourth novel, “A Man of the People”. The book was seen as a satire on post-independence Nigeria and it foresaw the greed, corruption, ill-promises and cynical lip service that had soon flooded the country’s polity. Achebe, in “A Man of the People”, gave an iconic status to his use of word. His proficiency, as a unique writer, succeeded in using his passion for words to gain door-pass into reader’s interest. Despite the sarcastic entity of the book, each word used in the novel wears an appealing face. Consider this extraction: “No one can deny that Chief the Honourable M.A. Nanga MP, was the most approachable politician in the country. Whether you ask in the city or in his home village, Anata, they would tell you he was a man of the people.” These sentences show the significance Achebe placed on the usage of words.
Grammatically, Achebe’s collection of appropriate words that made up his sequential sentences, in each of his organized paragraph, is evidence of his versatility in the usage of language. He understood the power of language and knows what word fit for whatsoever expression. To the extent of interpreting proverbs coin-out from his indigenous language (Igbo) into English language, Achebe was able to mould African character, proverbs and idioms with English into a literary shape; what many Nigerian young writers cannot do today. He demonstrated his genuine kindliness for literature immensely, through his humble use of words. Even harsh and weak words enjoy his care and openness.
Achebe’s love for words was an indicatory of how he enjoyed reading English literary canon at early age. This was back then in the colonial era. He believed English language will be able to carry the weight of his African experience. With his adventurous inspiration, Achebe brought out the fullness of Africa from her birthplace; top-up her emptiness with adorable words running over mysteries and milestones of black soil, particularly Nigeria. Perhaps, his background, education, surrounding and experience are factors that mingled and fashion-up his inspiration.
The man Chinua Achebe, who was born on November 16, 1930, in Ogidi, Anambra State of Nigeria, was brought up by his evangelical Christian parents. After his secondary education at the Government College, Umuahia, he won a scholarship to the University of Ibadan where he read English, history and theology. Achebe then, joined the Nigeria Broadcasting Service (NBC) in 1954 as a scriptwriter, which led to his first visit to the UK to attend a BBC training course. Following his passion for teaching, Achebe left the NBC to become a lecturer and professor of English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In the 1990 he was involved in a car crash that circumscribed him to wheelchair.
To his credit, Achebe has published several novels, essays, and short stories among which are Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, A Man of the people, Anthill of the savannah, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and others.
Image via Reading.Cornell