Saturday, 23 March 2013

We come to bury Chinua Achebe

I want to end by saying: don't let Achebe die - read his wonderful books!, Nadine Gordimer interrupted the sign-off of the BBC man interviewing her this morning about Chinua Achebe. She always has something memorable to say, was his friend and is of his generation. I was thinking, though: couldn't they have interviewed another Igbo writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (here reviewing his recent memoir), for example, whom many Radio 4 listeners would be familiar with?
I don't think I imagined that Nadine Gordimer sounded a bit exasperated by the subtly exoticising discourse that has characterised the coverage of Achebe's death. What made him a great writer?, the interviewer asked her. She mentioned the oppression and suffering he experienced and witnessed in Nigeria - why he wrote what he wrote - and followed this with a mini-lecture on the temperament and vocation of a born writer - why he WROTE. Her tone implied, I think: in this context, should I really need to say this?

Last year I read an interesting Masters' dissertation on the subtle racism of the 'better' British media: harder to pin down and combat than the more overt variety.


DuchessOmnium said...

I thought somethng similar when I heard the same interview. But I think, on balance, Gordimer was the right person to interview. I haven't read any of his books, but I expect other listeners, like me, will be picking up Things Fall Apart (for one) in the nexts days and weeks. So NG's plea will, for at little while at least, have some effect.

Jean said...

Duchess, I don't think Nadine Gordimer is really ever the 'wrong' person to interview, and, yes, she said the right thing: I haven't read much Achebe and I expect (as, poignantly, so often happens), I'll get around to reading more now. Thanks, though, for saying that you had a similar thought - not just me waking up in a particularly jaundiced mood, then...

Hope you're not hauling firewood in too much snow - god, this weather!