Nigeria 'falls apart' as it mourns the father of African litterature, Chinua Achebe

Nigeria 'falls apart' as it mourns the father of African litterature, Chinua Achebe

AWKA, Nigeria - Agence France-Presse
Nigeria falls apart as it mourns the father of African litterature, Chinua Achebe

Late Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe's daughter, professor Nwando Achebe (L), his wife, professor Christie Achebe (2nd L) and son Ikechukwu Achebe (3rd L) look at Anglican priest Owen Nwokolo praying (C) in front of the coffin bearing the body of late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe upon arrival at Abuja airport, on May 21, 2013. The body of Achebe, the author of internationally acclaimed novel 'Things Fall Apart' and a towering figure in African literature, arrived in Abuja two months after his d

The body of revered Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe arrived May 22 in his home state in Nigeria, where hundreds of admirers packed a stadium to pay tribute a day ahead of his funeral.

A wooden coffin transported the body of Achebe, the celebrated author of the novel "Things Fall Apart", who died in March in the United States at age 82.

His coffin was taken on Wednesday to a stadium in Awka in Anambra state in Nigeria's southeast, where some 2,000 people gathered and the Anglican archbishop of Anambra prayed over his body. Some mourners dressed in shirts with his picture emblazoned on them, while local chiefs wore traditional red caps common among Igbos, Achebe's ethnic group.

His body had initially arrived back in Nigeria in the capital Abuja on May 21. "Indeed a great man of letters has gone, but we are consoled that his good works and deeds will endure for long," said Innocent Okechukwu, a 27-year-old lawyer at the stadium.

Achebe is to be buried May 23 in his native town of Ogidi in Anambra state in a ceremony expected to draw fellow writers, local officials, foreign dignitaries and the Archbishop of Canterbury, according to local media.

His burial on the family compound in Ogidi will follow a service at a local Anglican church. Achebe was a harsh critic of corruption in Nigeria and rejected national awards in 2004 and 2011, but President Goodluck Jonathan was nonetheless scheduled to attend.

Achebe was best known internationally for his novel 'Things Fall Apart,' which depicts the clash between British rule and traditional Igbo culture in his native southeastern region.

He had lived and worked as a professor in the United States in recent years, with a 1990 car accident leaving him in a wheelchair and limiting his travel.

South African writer and Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer called Achebe the "father of modern African literature" in 2007, when she was among the judges to award him the Man Booker International prize for fiction.