At the job interview for my last job I was asked one person who I would love to meet. I answered that it would be Chinua Achebe. After reading his work I had always dreamt of sitting down with him, asking him many questions and being silent while he told me all the musings of his wise and aged heart.
I always felt like he was similar to me in some ways. I loved that he dabbled into everything- from politics to philosophy to medicine. I could totally relate to that. He had a quiet disposition but underneath it you could tell he was a strong man creating his own path. I liked the way he loved his culture and blazed a trail for ‘African writing’. I loved that he didn’t put himself in the box of ‘African writing’ but rather made it ‘human’ writing. He was a storyteller that was a genius at building bridges between people everywhere in the world while retaining his strong sense of identity.
Of course I loved that he was Nigerian like me, Igbo like me, and from the same state of origin as I am (Anambra) and got to share our culture, ethnicity, the ways and wisdom of our people in a very intimate and real way with the rest of the world.
I loved that he stood for something and was always out to humanize, contextualise and also add another view point to any story he considered one-sided. Especially telling the stories that everyone else wanted to pretend like they’d moved past.
I loved that he didn’t know whether or not his most famous work would sell but he still wrote it.
I admired his genius, his presence and that air of quiet dignity and humble strength in him.
He reminded me of my grandfather (technically my grand-uncle), who was an English teacher because my grandfather was very much an Igbo man but being raised in schools run by the English also acted like a English gentleman at times. Because the generations following them speak ‘Nigerianized’ English, mixing in our own colloquialisms and what not, I found they who had been raised in schools run by the English very cute 🙂 . Its sad they are gradually passing on.
I was so sad when I learnt of his death because I had always wanted to meet this man whose stories read like he was in my room with me. In a way I was familiar with him because I had let him take me on a journey that felt very real to me with every interview of his I had listened to and every page of his writing I read. I had met him in my own way I guess.
May His soul rest in peace.
Ps: In other news I am pleased to tell you I got published in a poetry collection called ‘On being human’ 🙂
You can buy and download the print version here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/131907685/PoetryPotion-2013-01-On-Being-Human
Or read it for FREE here: http://poetrypotion.com/features/