Chinua Achebe on Palfest, African Novels You Should Read

According to his publisher, beloved Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe has died. He was 82.

Palestine Festival for Literature organizers shared this video message Achebe recorded for the 2008 festival:

Also, in a 2010 interview with Conjunctions, Achebe talked about teaching African literature, and some of the African authors he most admires. In this interview as elsewhere, he mentioned Alifa Rifaat, whose short-story collection Distant View from a Minaret was beautifully trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. Achebe also mentioned Naguib Mahfouz, of course, and Nawal El Saadawi, for how she addresses “the conflict, the dynamic between men and women in the Islamic society”.

From West Africa, Achebe said, “I would include Amos Tutuola, who represents closely the link between the oral tradition and the written. I would include from Senegal one of the finest colonial novels, written originally in French: Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure . There is also Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy, set in colonial Cameroon.”

“Then,” he said, “I would go south. Nadine Gordimer is sometimes not thought of as African, but she is. She is writing out of an intensely African experience. You can see already what a diverse kind of group this is. I would go to eastern Africa and read Nuruddin Farah from Somalia. I would want the student to understand that Africans aren’t funny people, that what’s happening in Africa is happening to real people. One does this by showing them good stories written about human beings living their lives — a different culture, but always human beings.”