Writer Chinua Achebe shunned Nigeria's corrupt politicians and twice turned down national honors, never fearing to criticize those he felt ruined his country. On Thursday, however, the lawmakers and the country's elite came to praise him.
Hundreds attended Achebe's funeral among the rolling hills of his eastern Nigeria home, a service that saw President Goodluck Jonathan literally hold up the writer's books. The gold plaque on his coffin simply called him the "eagle atop the Iroko tree" in his native Igbo language.
It was a fitting tribute to the respect Achebe carried among the people here and for many others around the world who knew him through his books, which many say is the first African voice heard in modern literature.
"Chinua Achebe gave Africa its confidence," said Emeka Anyaoku, an Igbo elder.
Achebe rose to acclaim with the publication of his 1958 classic novel Things Fall Apart, a parable for the collapse of traditional society in Africa on the arrival of colonialists. The journalist's tense, short sentences recalled Ernest Hemingway, but offered a vision of Igbo culture before British rule ultimately united the regions that now form modern Nigeria.
Things Fall Apart has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 50 languages. Though describing himself in writing as a "British-protected child," Achebe became a forceful critic of Western literature about Africa, especially Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. His writings often focused on that split between cultures, serving at times as a bridge for those wanting to understand the those two worlds.