Tuesday, March 26, 2013

OFILI: My Weird Beef With Chinua Achebe

I don’t necessarily agree with Chinua Achebe on a lot of things. For instance, I felt that his ending to his first book Things Fall Apart was bad. Bad because he killed of the lead character Okonkwo in the most cowardly of manners. Okonkwo the one who resisted the colonial masters the most was made to die in a remarkably uneventful and might I add cowardly way. His death did not even spark a revolution amongst his village people…he just died. With his death, it was as if we accepted that the colonial masters were superior.

But despite my subtle or not so subtle disagreements with Achebe, I have come to respect his works a lot and his fight for the relevance of African culture amongst the world stage. And when I do get upset with his stories or writings (not that he cares)….I am reminded by one of his many but powerful quotes that says “If you don’t like someone’s storywrite your own.”
So I have written and written. Instead of criticizing other writers and writing nothing I have pushed myself to write. And not just to write anything, but to write the truth honestly and clearly. And I want to thank Mr. Achebe for giving me the vision to do that…and also for letting me understand for the first time what the Biafra Civil War was about and giving my parents strength open up to me about the war for the first time in over 30 years.
Thanks for everything, your wisdom was and is still without bounds.You will be missed, but your writing will stay with me forever.
Like you say in your classic book Things Fall Apart…“Among the Ibo…proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” I would like to write my own and say “among Authors…quotes are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” So here is a collection of my favorite Achebe quotes including the ones that became the consistent palm oil in my writing soup.
Hope you enjoy them and if you don’t…remember you can go and write your own quote…
Storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of control, they frighten usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the human spirit — in state, in church or mosque, in party congress, in the university or wherever.”
— Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah
Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proverbs. Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.
— Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.”
— Things Fall Apart
He was not a fighter, but his voice turned every man into a lion.
— Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe


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