By YINKA IBUKUN and KRISTA LARSON
Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani was just 10 years old when she first read Chinua Achebe’s groundbreaking novel “Things Fall Apart.”
She devoured the rich use of Igbo proverbs in his book, which forever changed Africa’s portrayal in literature.
That inspiration carried over into the creation of a pivotal character in her debut work, “I Do Not Come to You by Chance,” which pulls readers into the dark and greedy world of Nigerian Internet scam artists.
Achebe’s death at the age of 82 was announced Friday by his publisher. His works inspired countless writers around the world, though the literary style of “Things Fall Apart,” first published in 1958, particularly transformed the way novelists wrote about Africa.
Adewale Maja-Pearce, a literary critic who succeeded Achebe as the editor of Heinemann’s African Writers Series, called him a pioneer whose “contribution is immeasurable.”
In breaking with the Eurocentric lens of viewing the continent through the eyes of outsiders, Achebe took readers to a place full of complex characters who told their stories in their own words and style.
Achebe once wrote that a major goal “was to challenge stereotypes, myths, and the image of ourselves and our continent.”
He resisted the idea that he was the father of modern African literature, recalling a rich and ancient tradition of storytelling on the continent. Still, his influence on younger writers of the late 20th and early 21st century, particularly those from his homeland, was undeniable.
A newer crop of successful novelists with ties to Nigeria has broken away from Achebe’s mode, Azuonye said, developing their own modernist style of writing that focuses on clashes of cultures and other issues facing Nigerians abroad.
Nigerian novelist Lola Shoneyin, whose works include “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives,” says Achebe’s fiction gives her something new each time she reads his work.
Igoni Barrett, the author of a collection of stories called “From Caves of Rotten Teeth,” said Achebe had achieved a “saintly status among Nigerian writers” through his pioneering involvement in the African Writers Series.
One of Senegal’s best-known novelists, 66-year-old Boubacar Boris Diop, was in high school when he read “Things Fall Apart.” He says that in it, he found “the real Africa.”
“I systematically advise young authors to read Chinua Achebe. I’ve often bought copies of ‘Things Fall Apart’ and offered them to young writers. It’s well written–in the sense that it’s not written at all. In it, you won’t find any great lyrical phrases. That’s the great force of this book. It’s written in simple language,” said Diop.
“He wrote about a continent that is far from perfect, but which at the same time has things within it that fill you with wonder.”
Larson reported from Dakar Senegal. Associated Press writer Rukmini Callimachi also contributed to this report.