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Is Chinua Achebe the Father of African Literature?: Literature : Nigerialog.com - Nigeria's Premier Online Forum

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Is Chinua Achebe the Father of African Literature?

By: calculus |Time : August 28, 2016, 03:42:35 PM
By Mazi Chidiebere Ikeanyionwu

African Literature as a genre is certainly peculiar in the categorization of literature genres by geography. It is continental in outlook and no doubt the broadest genre in its category. Since the death of Chinua Achebe, there has been a discussion around the statement made by Nadine Gordimer in 2007 that Chinua Achebe is the father of modern African literature.  Now that Chinua Achebe’s mortal remains has been committed to Mother Earth, I believe the discussion is not only worthwhile but absolutely necessary if only to prepare the grounds for further discussions by future generations.

In considering the question of Chinua Achebe being the father of African literature (note that I deliberately left out the modifier “modern”), I discovered that the exercise does not really require any profound depth of thought. It is a claim that can be either dismissed or upheld in just a couple of logical steps. I will presently proceed to dismiss or uphold this claim in a few short sentences; but first let me set a background with two submissions.

Firstly, Chinua Achebe was certainly not the pioneer writer out of Africa; other African writers preceded him. It is however worthy of note that while writings out of Africa existed prior to Chinua’s time, African literature (as well defined and structured as we know it today) did not exist. The yeoman’s job of defining and putting credible structures around the genre we know today as African literature was left to Chinua’s generation. They did it commendably well. For the avoidance of doubt, let me quickly clarify that the lot of defining African literature fell on them not because they were smarter than other generations before or after them; it was simply because of the fact that they came of age when they did – at the threshold of Africa’s independence. Before their time, African literature was not so well defined; today African literature is well defined, well structured and has come of age. It is therefore logical to conclude that the father of African literature is somebody from Chinua’s generation of literary thinkers; and the options are many.

Secondly, fatherhood in all respects goes beyond the mere animal act of insemination. To be deemed the proper father of someone (or something as the case may be) a man must consciously do two things:
1.   Protect and project the interests of his offspring
2.   Fiercely battle and whittle down any other interest opposed to the growth and/or wellbeing of his offspring
In my view, this is the major divergence between “sirehood” and fatherhood.

Now to the crux of the matter: is Chinua Achebe the father of African literature? Achebe’s gigantic influence on African literature was not because he wrote his famous books; it was based more on his stature as a genuine African philosopher. If the only thing he did was to tell interesting stories, I certainly would not be writing this today because other writers of his generation also told good stories. Chinua is different because he went beyond the simple course of telling his own stories; he also drew stories out of other Africans! He consciously projected and protected the interests of African literature. Almost all the works that defined the beginnings of structured African literature bore the imprint of Achebe in his role as the editor of Heinemann’s pioneer African Writers Series. Renowned African writers like Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong'o have openly acclaimed the critical role Achebe played in getting their various careers underway. Is there any other African writer in history that have so influenced or promoted African literature like Achebe? Certainly none!

Notwithstanding the classic nature of Things Fall Apart, I believe Achebe’s greatest contribution to African literature would eventually be recognized as those beautiful essays written in his inimitable conversational style. If Chinua Achebe greatly projected and protected African literature, he even did more in fiercely combating those influences opposed to its wholesome growth. Can anybody point me to another critical essay from an African that has influenced (and will continue to influence) literary thought like Achebe’s 1975 lecture on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?

No doubt so many other African writers have contributed (and are still contributing today) to the genre known as African literature; amongst all these writers, however, there is undisputedly one who has done more than the others – there is a father.
 
Finally, I pose the question again: is Chinua Achebe the father of African literature?

My considered verdict: YES, HE IS!

Re: Is Chinua Achebe the Father of African Literature?

By: alagbe003 (M) |Time : September 02, 2016, 06:54:43 PM
 No doubt, he is

Re: Is Chinua Achebe the Father of African Literature?

By: naijarian (F) |Time : September 03, 2016, 09:29:20 PM
Based on what exactly? Age? Writing experience?
There are other great African literary writers, you know. So I ask again, how did we decide on Achebe being the father?

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