“the world is tragic by nature” so things fall apart?
A sentimental post
afropanavisions left this thoughtful comment on South Africa
I was so saddened, that the very people who received international solidarity to help bring about the end of the dreadful system of apartheid would turned into such monsters to hurt those who are foreign born.
What a sad day it is indeed.
Despite this there is still some sanity and wisdom to be found. Chinua Achebe on the 50th anniversary of Things Fall Apart……. I loved this interview – uplifting and full of gentleness and hope.
On bridging the Atlantic
Yes, well I’ll tell you another story. James Baldwin and I were invited to speak at an African literature conference somewhere in the South, and what Baldwin said in talking about me to the audience is that “This is a brother I had not seen for 400 years,” and people laughed. And he said that it was not intended that he and I should ever meet. That’s what you asked me. Part of the center of the plan was that we should not know each other. So that’s why our task is, in my view, so very important: that in spite of that intention to keep us apart, there will be some people who would refuse and insist on knowing their brothers and sisters who had been sold away and lost. There are some people who knew that it was important to discover them, and I’m not talking in the past, because the problem remains. There are so many of us on both sides of the Atlantic who do not know the importance of that recognition, that this is my brother, this is my sister, that their story is the same as my story. Whatever variations, it is basically the same story
On which character he would be in TFA
And so there are parts of me in different people. Perhaps the most moderate one, because moderation is important here. Okonkwo is a man of excess. I respect him as a hero, but a flawed hero. But very interesting, nevertheless; that’s why he is famous. Now, his friend, Obierika, is more moderate, the kind of person who would keep the house in order. And so if I had to be one person, if it’s not Ezinma it probably would be Obierika
Nigeria is home. First of all, that’s what it means to me: it’s home. It’s a very frustrating home, a very annoying home, but it is my home. And if I had my way, that’s where this interview would be happening. But since it’s not gone that way, you know, I don’t believe in weeping over something. I think it’s more effective, more useful, to find what you can do rather than what you can’t do. So, Nigeria has such a wonderful possibility built into it, but it’s something it never uses. Talent. It would rather use a half-baked person rather than someone who is highly qualified. But that’s the country I’ve got.
here is a misreading of my fiction in that complaint. I think many people think that what I’m doing is praising the position of women. It’s not; in fact, it’s very opposite. What I was doing was pointing out how unjust the Igbo society is to women. And how better to explore it than to make the hero of this story, Okonkwo…all his problems are problems to do with the feminine. There’s nothing else wrong with Okonkwo except his failure to understand that the gentleness, the compassion that we associate with women is even more important than strength. Now, people don’t understand why I am showing these women who are not in charge. I’m showing them that way because that’s how it is in this society I want to change. And that’s what Okonkwo was not able to learn, and I want others after him to learn it: that women, compassion, music…these things are as valuable–more valuable–than war and violence.
Yeah, it’s interesting how you put it. He has, and what I feel towards him is a sense of wonder and pity. Pity is probably not a good word because Okonkwo is a very dignified and proud person and would not like anyone to pity him. But I am sort of concerned that a major aspect of our human experience has to be suffering and failing to reach where you set out to go because of all kinds of things on the way. One day somebody came to me in the hospital after I had this accident, and the question he asked me was, “Why you? Why would this happen to you?” So I said–I didn’t think twice–I said to him, “Do you have an idea of somebody else to whom it should have happened?” What I was saying is that the world is tragic by nature. And that’s why tragic stories appeal to me, far more than happy and comic stories. Both the tragic and the comic are there in our lives, but somehow the tragic one, the Okonkwo kind of story, is the one that speaks most to us.