It’s one of the greatest expeditions any young and up-coming writer could ever wish for: to go through in a very detailed pace, the personal essays of a hero, a pathfinder and in contemporary vocabularies, a genius or a protagonist of hope, someone to which our expectations of this art of writing have been aligned.
It is primarily one expedition I would cherish for so long a time and remember with fervent nostalgia. Upon my arrival in a different country, Belgium to be precise and living in the Flemish region of the country, Dutch has been since the day of embarkation, the language widely spoken within this frontier and as a result ought to be learnt if you wish to be understood by all and sundry. So, I can proudly say I was firmly right when I chose to read a book by an African writer, written solely in Dutch. I wouldn’t say I had the language under my belt, the understanding of the context of the piece meant much to me, than basically having to understand each and every word. It was one of those unusual afternoons, when I decided to by-pass a well known bookshop in the city before making inroads to the main city library, a place I’ve been for not so long a time accustomed to, so I think it wouldn’t be far from right, if I were to call there my second home.
I came across a few books written originally by well established African writers, with titles such as “De Zwarte Messiah” and “Amerikanah”, which literally translate into English as “The Black Messiah” and “Americana”, written by Chika Unigwe and Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi and respectively. The coincidence of them being Nigerians is something that didn’t keep me pondering. Someone would ask that why did I made up my mind to focus specifically on (an) African writer(s). I’m never a segregationist and to put it bare, it is things in which you find yourself that gets you attracted. It could be literally anything. And that not withstanding, I read books from all corners, races, creeds, political dispensations and what have you. That’s to say from H. G. Wells, John Grisham, Ngugi wa Thiong o, Pettina Gappah, William Shakespeare, Plato, to name but a few.
I must admit that I was very proud to have come across the works penned by African writers. As a result, I noted down the titles of these pieces on my agenda. On my way from the bookshop, I came across coincidentally another bookshop and I decided to enter and have a look around. To my amazement, I came across a book entitled “Een jeugd onder Britse protectie”, ie “A youth under British protection”, it entails a compilation of Chinua Achebe’s personal essays, translated into Dutch by Hanneke Nutbey (Geus).
I read the blurb and I found it very interesting and worth considering. I purchased it and the expedition primarily began. The book tells in a detailed emphasis, the personal experiences of Chinua Achebe, his life as a writer, his opinions and contributions to the world of literature, if not to the whole world. During this expedition. I came across a few similarities between his youthful days and mine. I found that very encouraging but so breathtaking. Although the book is literally written in Dutch, I really did understand every bit that the compilation seemed to portray. It has been very informative, an eye opener and it’s undoubtedly an encouragement to both the young and the old to really have an overview of how the recent – past decades transpired, ie. pre-independence, independence and post – independence under the noble but impeccable eyes of Chinua Achebe, the father of African literature.
In this compilation, he makes an allusion in many instances to formidable writers such as James Baldwin, Christopher Okigbo, Ngugi wa Thiong o, Olaudah Equiano (Gustavo Vassa), Leopold Sedar Senghor, to name but a few.
The compilation brings to light the Biafra war in Nigeria and some other notable moments worth – considering.