Writer and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka and poet and playwright J.P. Clark released a joint statement on Friday weighing in on the death of author Chinua Achebe, whom they refer to as a “brother” who was part of the “pioneer quartet” of contemporary Nigerian literature.
In it, the two note that it may be difficult for those outside their intimate circle to appreciate the depth of the loss, and wonder whether recent events in the country contributed to the Things Fall Apart author’s decline:
ON THE PASSING OF CHINUA ACHEBE
For us, the loss of Chinua Achebe is, above all else, intensely personal. We have lost a brother, a colleague, a trailblazer and a doughty fighter. Of the “pioneer quartet” of contemporary Nigerian literature, two voices have been silenced – one, of the poet Christopher Okigbo, and now, the novelist Chinua Achebe. It is perhaps difficult for outsiders of that intimate circle to appreciate this sense of depletion, but we take consolation in the young generation of writers to whom the baton has been passed, those who have already creatively ensured that there is no break in the continuum of the literary vocation.
We need to stress this at a critical time of Nigerian history, where the forces of darkness appear to overshadow the illumination of existence that literature represents. These are forces that arrogantly pride themselves implacable and brutal enemies of what Chinua and his pen represented, not merely for the African continent, but for humanity. Indeed, we cannot help wondering if the recent insensate massacre of Chinua’s people in Kano, only a few days ago, hastened the fatal undermining of that resilient will that had sustained him so many years after his crippling accident.
No matter the reality, after the initial shock, and a sense of abandonment, we confidently assert that Chinua lives. His works provide their enduring testimony to the domination of the human spirit over the forces of repression, bigotry, and retrogression.
J. P. CLARK