Professor Bukenya: Chinua Achebe Inspired My Writing

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Professor Austin Bukenya during an interview Lydia Radoli

Professor Austin Bukenya during an interview

In short
Ugandan author Austin Bukenya recalls his various meetings with Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. Describes Achebe as a man who remained down-to-earth despite continental and global acclaim.

Author and Makerere University Professor Austin Bukenya has described the death of the celebrated Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe as a great loss to the African literary community.
 
The Nigerian novelist, died at the age of 82, in a hospital in Boston Massachusetts, United States. His publisher Penguin confirmed Friday his passing.
 
A greatly loved writer, Achebe was widely referred to as the grandfather of modern African literature.
 
He is most famous for his 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, the story of the Igbo warrior Okonkwo and the colonial era, which has sold more than 10m copies around the world and has been translated into 50 languages.
 
According to Prof. Bukenya Achebe recognized the voice of women in literature through the portrayal of powerful female characters. 
 
Such portrayals like Beatrice Nwanyibuife in Anthills of the Savannah Prof. Bukenya says later encouraged other African women to venture into the literary scene.
 
He remembers his first encounter with Chinua Achebe in 1974, when the author was among African writers attending a Kiswahili conference at Makerere University. Bukenya was just a student at Makerere University.
 
Speaking to Uganda Radio Network on phone Prof. Bukenya said he was awed by the lucidity with which Achebe discussed different literary styles and ideological concepts that soon shaped his own writing.
 
That was not the only meeting Bukenya was to have with Achebe. In 1980 when Prof, Bukenya had fled to Kenya in the aftermath of the overthrow of Idi Amin, he bumped into Achebe at the University of Nairobi, where he was still an amateur writer.
 
Bukenya recalls that Achebe recognized him from the conference in Makerere, to this he says the late author was a keen observer and although celebrated across the continent, he still remained down to earth.
 
Bukenya believes that Achebe's writing has helped to shape the cultural, political and development thinking in the African setting.
 
He is sad that Africa is rapidly losing its elderly and experienced writers. 
 
Prof. Bukenya hopes that upcoming authors will emulate Achebe’s simplistic style of writing which was relevant to audiences of all ages and settings.
 
Achebe’s was a finalist for his novel Anthills of the Savanna, for the 1987 Booker prize, and in 2007 won the Man Booker international prize.

Achebe also won the Commonwealth poetry prize for his collection Christmas in Biafra.

Professor Austin Bukenya is the author of The People's Bachelor, among other works. 

 

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