RIP Chinua Achebe: 1931-2013
Breaking News: Just announced that Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has passed away at a hospital in Boston. Achebe was eighty-two.
Achebe rose to fame in 1958 with the publication of his first novel Things Fall Apart, a work that met with both critical and popular success. Other international best-sellers include No Longer At Ease, A Man of the People, Arrow of God and Anthills of the Savannah.
For the last four years, Achebe has been the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Here are ten memorable quotes from both his lectures and works:
1. “To me, being an intellectual doesn’t mean knowing about intellectual issues; it means taking pleasure in them.”
2. “When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.”
3. “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.”
4. “Procrastination is a lazy man’s apology.” – Anthills of the Savannah
5. “There is a moral obligation, I think, not to ally oneself with power against the powerless.” – There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra
6. “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” ― Things Fall Apart
7. “We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.” ― The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays
8. “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised. ”
9. “Charity . . . is the opium of the privileged.”
10. “I believe in the complexity of the human story and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say: This is it. Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing; the same person telling the story will tell it differently. I masquerade is moving through this big arena. Dancing. If you’re rooted to a spot, you miss a lot of the grace. So you keep moving, and this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told—from many different perspectives.” Think of that masquerade in Igbo festivals that dances in the public arena. The Igbo people say, “If you want to see it well, you must not stand in one place.”