May 24, 2013
Chinua Achebe buried in Nigeria
by Kelly Burdick
On Thursday, the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe was buried in his hometown of Ogidi, Nigeria. Achebe, who died on March 21 and twice refused Nigerian state honors, suffered a semi-official funeral that, as Guardian reporter Monica Mark writes, exhibited “exactly the sort of pomp the literary titan hated.” As the Guardian goes on to report:
[T]his time the author was in no position to resist the state honours being conferred on him. President [Goodluck] Jonathan reminded funeral attendees of the author’s criticisms of politicians and corruption. After the singing, the long speeches and prayers, this was a moment about which many had been holding their breath.
“For those of you that read The Trouble with Nigeria, Achebe told us that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria. The problem is the political leadership,” he said, waving a copy of the novel…
Jonathan went on to read a passage that highlighted the political corruption and manipulation that had afflicted the African oil giant since independence. “That was in Chinua’s last book,” the former professor said. “All of us must work hard to change this country.”
There are a number of things wrong with this—The Trouble with Nigeria is not a novel—but the speech was supposedly greeted with cautious applause.
Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.