Elechi Amadi was a former soldier, author, and voice of the African people. Author of ‘The Concubine‘, which is considered to be an outstanding work of fiction by many, died on June 29. Amadi was born in 1934, residing in Rivers State, Nigeria, the young author and inspiration obtained his education at the University of Ibadan where he studied Physics and Mathematics, a far cry from his later career writing creative stories and plays about the African lifestyle, customs, and religious beliefs of local villages.
The Soldier and Politician
Elechi Amadi joined the special forces where he served the country during the Nigerian Civil War, working his way through the ranks and retiring as “Captain”. After his military career, Amadi held various political seats including Permanent Secretary, Commissioner for Education, and Commissioner of Land and Housing before picking up a pen and starting his writing career.
Amadi began his writing career while holding a position at Rivers State College of Education, and his first publication was a poem in 1957 titled ‘Penitence’. Nine years later he published his first novel, which won him worldwide recognition. ‘The Concubine’, published in 1966, is a fictional novel based on the local lives and struggles of the hunting and fishing villages of Nigeria. Later the novel was adapted to the big screen and was produced by Nollywood director Andy Amechi in 2007.
Amadi wrote a handful of books including ‘The Great Ponds’, his second novel published in 1969, and his autobiography titled ‘Sunset in Biafra’. Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, honored the late author in an interview with Premium Times saying his contribution to the world would continue, “honoring its faithful servitors and filling us with gratitude for their passage. I recall those enraged, agonizing hours when the peace and sanctuary of his home were violated by kidnappers, mulled over the treasured moments I spent with him in the intimacy of his living room. It seemed unconscionable that, having survived a Civil War, he should now be subjected to the sadism, disrespect and greed of a handful – and of course, of the failure of overall society that he took to arms to rectify Far from his home, I quietly celebrated his triumphal return. Now there are only memories of those sparse but quietly congenial interactions to celebrate.”
Leading the nation of first generation writers, many Nigerians grew up reading his works including ‘The Concubine’, which focuses on love and the constant struggle of conflict. Best known for the way he portrayed local villages in his books, he often wrote complex plots and shifting views throughout his work.
In addition to influencing the future writers of the Nigeria, Amadi was a patriot, serving his country for a number of years and holding various offices that allowed him to continue his passion for improving the country and the lives of his countrymen.
The world has truly lost one of the greatest writers of recent times. As fans continue to flood the media, social media, and other forums turning out to show their support and admiration for this creative genius, the literary world pays tribute to an icon.