A human is human because of other humans

images/stories/Achebe.jpgNo matter how it sounds in your ears, the speaker was down serious about it.

Dr. Chinua Achebe is the author of “things fall apart“, one of the most popular books ever written by Africans. With the translation into all the major languages in the world, millions of people have bought the book.

At an interview to CNN on its weekly program ‘African Voices’, the Nigerian author drew a clear line from his personal biography to his wealth of literary achievement.

Watch the video on CNN.com

The sudden popularity of his first book, things fall apart and the commencement of the Nigerian civil war in 1967 was a mere coincident, yet he nearly lost his head for it.

It’s obvious he wasn’t singing the praises of the Nigerian military government in particular and the European encroachment on the African culture in general.

His analyses of the social/political tussles and cultural conflicts in African society is no doubt as true today as it was when he made the powerful equation in his book:

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Even though it wasn’t the cause of the ragging war, the military elements did not under estimate the provocative book just published in London.

Recounting his experience of war, to the CNN journalist, he said:

“The armed men who came to my office looking for me were not the type of people to be joked with. They said I was powerful and they wanted to try my strength with their guns…”

Before it would have been too late, he quickly escaped with his family as the federal government and his Eastern part of the country fighting for secession went deep into the war. It was going to be fierce and would consume more lives than any other civil war has done in Africa. Three million lives in three years.

Many years have past and a lot of things have happened in Nigeria and indeed in Africa, but the prolific writer is still writing.  

In turning back a question to the girl interviewing him, the elderly man, now compelled to remain in a wheel chair by a road accident, reacted:

I cannot stop writing… Or do you have another job for me? It’s one of the things that haven’t failed me…”

Of course, his literary works have plenty of relevance to the culture and philosophy of African people. He was even awarded the father of African literature.

When asked who he thinks will receive the baton from his hands, he decided to speak about the idea itself.

“I wasn’t consulted before the award…”

He further added that literature like the story of a people does not belong to him as an individual but to the people collectively.

After all, a human is human because of other humans.

Ewanfoh Obehi Peter

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