This morning brought the news of the death of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe at the age of 82. The author died in a Boston hospital where he had been staying for what we are now learning was a significant period of time. The Premium Times was the first to break the story saying that he passed away in an undisclosed hospital.
The news was met by an outpouring of grief and remembrance for the writer. Aaron Bady reposted his 2008 blog post to The New Inquiry about Achebe and the faint praise that the author received during his career.
Here’s the thing: Achebe was just a great writer, full stop. I’m not sure anyone could do what he did. And while it may seem like a small point, like complaining that a genuine compliment just isn’t enough of a compliment, there’s an important point of which it’s in service, a larger issue of who gets to “know” what sorts of knowledges and why. It diminishes his achievement to pretend that white writers don’t write about the things he wrote about, because if Rush’s novels (or any post-war white novelist) had to be placed next to Achebe’s, we might have to acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that the best practitioner of English literature might be an African.Achebe is best known for his 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart. It has sold millions of copies around the world and has been translated into dozens of languages. A 2005 list of the 100 greatest novels since 1923 by TIME magazine included the novel calling it, "A novel of great power that turns the world upside down."
Achebe was well known throughout the seven continents and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. RIP.
— Teju Cole (@tejucole) March 22, 2013