Chimamanda Adichie have met Chinua Achebe only three times. The first, at the National Arts Club in Manhattan, she joined the admiring circle around him. A gentle-faced man in a wheelchair.
She said: ‘Good evening, sir. I’m Chimamanda Adichie’, and he replied, mildly, ‘I thought you were running away from me’. I mumbled, nervous, grateful for the crush of people around us. I had been running away from him. After my first novel was published, I received an email from his son. My dad has just read your novel and liked it very much. He wants you to call him at this number. I read it over and over, breathless with excitement. But I never called. A few years later, my editor sent Achebe a manuscript of my second novel. She did not tell me, because she wanted to shield me from the possibility of disappointment. One afternoon, she called.
‘Chimamanda, are you sitting down? I have wonderful news’. She read the praise Achebe had just sent her.
Kindly read them below...
‘We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. Adichie knows what is at stake, and what to do about it. She is fearless or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria’s civil war. Adichie came almost fully made’.
Afterwards, I held on to the phone and wept. I have memorized those words. In my mind, they glimmer still, the validation of a writer whose work had validated me.