“Chinua Achebe was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and a giant of African literature, who captured the struggles facing many peoples and expressed them in a language of humanity, guided by a belief in their inherent rights and dignity,” said the Director-General.
In his novel, Anthills of the Savannah, Chinua Achebe wrote: “You must find a way to accept something, however small, from the other to make you whole.”
“Chinua Achebe was a towering giant for African identity and a champion against all forms of discrimination, racism and prejudice,” said the Director-General, “His life and works are a lesson in integrity and critical thinking.”
In an interview he gave to the UNESCO Courier in 2001, Chinua Achebe spoke of his belief in the power of fiction and the importance of the story of every man and woman.
“To begin with, it just seemed to me that everyone was entitled to tell his or her own story,” he said. “If you want to understand a people’s experience, life and society, you must turn to their stories. I am constantly looking for that moment when an old story suddenly reveals a new meaning.”
“Chinua Achebe always sought to create the conditions for others to tell their story,” said the Director-General. “He was a prolific editor, a founder of publishing houses and a source of generous support to other writers. His death is a great loss to the common spirit of humanity we all share.”
Chinua Achebe was awarded a UNESCO Fellowship for Creative Artists in 1960. Born in Nigeria, Chinua Achebe burst onto the world literary scene with his 1958 book, Things Fall Apart, a novel translated into more than fifty languages, which opened an African perspective on colonialism to readers across the world. This was the start of a long career marked by the search to deepen mutual understanding and respect and to build bridges between all peoples as well as between tradition and modernity, always drawing on the wealth of Africa’s culture.