Biodun Jeyifo


To write a critical tribute to any writer at the present time calls for a special kind of political criticism.1 This is perhaps even more daunting when that writer happens to be Chinua Achebe who, beyond the fact of his being one of contemporary literature's most widely read and internationally prominent authors, has always figured as a complex, ambiguous presence in the post-colonial politics of identity and ideological affiliation. Perhaps nothing better expresses this ambiguity than the fact that much as Achebe's works have been invoked as powerful, exemplary texts of nationalist contestation of colonialist myths and distortions of Africa and Africans/ it is also the case that these texts have only been minimally concerned, at least at the thematic level, to depict or explore resistance to colonialism; rather, they have been particularly imbued with a melancholic sense of the falling apart of things with the

collapse of pre-colonial societies and cultures. Another distinct, but related expression of the ambiguous politics of Achebe's works pertains to his known identification with left-wing, anti-capitalist groups and intellectuals in his native Nigeria, and more broadly in Africa, at the same time that this identification has been fraught with problems and controversies.3 Achebe is, in this sense, very much in the company of other post-colonial writers like Wole Soyinka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Nadine Gordimer and Carlos Fuentes whose leftidentified politics sit very uneasily with the orthodox Left and its set revolutionary perspectives and objectives.



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