Africa’s acclaimed man of letters will be laid to rest next month in his hometown of Ogidi, Anambra state, in eastern Nigeria, surrounded by friends, Nobel laureates and other luminaries.
Among those who have reserved their place at the memorial are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, and, from the U.S., Toni Morrison, Ruth Simmons and Johnetta B. Cole.
The author of Things Fall Apart and other celebrated works died in Boston on March 21. He was 82.
Achebe’s sons, Ike and Chidi, said their father will have a Christian burial.
“As a storyteller, as a voice of his nation, as a cultural impresario, an intellectual combatant and provocateur, Achebe gained with age the status in Nigeria of a bard and a sage that the modern world rarely affords to writers,” observed New York writer Philip Gourevitch.
“After long-term professorships at Bard College and Brown University, he returned to Nigeria where he was received as a national hero. Crowds of thousands—sometimes tens of thousands—gathered to pay tribute to him. The adoration hardly softened him, though. He was, in his old age, as much a scold to his compatriots as he had ever been in his youth.”
Achebe regarded the corpus of African literature as the aesthetic and moral glue that bonded African people on the continent and the African Diaspora. “The new literature in Africa”, he said, “like the old, is aware of the possibilities available to it for celebrating humanity in our continent…Whether the rendezvous of separate histories will take place in a grand, harmonious concourse or be fought with bitterness and acrimony will all depend on whether we have learned to recognize one another’s presence and are ready to accord human respect to everybody”.
In addition, a memorial service to celebrate Achebe’s life has been scheduled for June 2 in Washington DC.