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Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe, London, May 21, 1970. Photo: Corbis.

NEWS OF THE DEATH of the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, who passed away on March 21 at the age of eighty-two, reached me at my office in Munich through the wildfire of the Internet. By day’s end, that wildfire had spread to precincts far beyond the Web. It burned unceasingly, in phone calls and text messages and the pages of newspapers; in postings on social media and African literary LISTSERVS; in classrooms and bars, and, above all, on the bustling, teeming streets of African cities. Recollections were mixed with sorrow; collective grief was speckled with celebrations of the life of one of Africa’s greatest sons. The shock of Achebe’s death left me momentarily paralyzed. But sadness was joined by exhilaration as I remembered how his vivid writing acted as a kind of life-sustaining ore to be mined by members of my generation of postcolonial Africans. Even today, I remember

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