Christopher Okigbo, once described as 'Africa's most lyrical poet of the twentieth century' was killed in September 1967, fighting for the independence of Biafra. The Sunday Times described his death as 'the single most important tragedy of the Nigerian civil war'. The manner in which Okigbo died typified the passionate, tortured and dramatic quality of his life. Widely considered along with Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe as part of modern Nigeria's greatest literary triumvirate, Okigbo's death promoted him to cult status among subsequent generations of African writers.
This is the first full biography of the Nigerian poet. It places Okigbo within the turmoil of his generation and illustrates the aspects of his life that gave rise to such an intense poetry. How did his experience in the prestigious, English-type boarding school, Umuahia, where he was known more as a sportsman than a scholar, influence his life and later choices? Why was he sacked from the colonial service, and how did that lead him towards a search for private recovery, and ultimately towards poetry? What led him to take up arms? In other words, how did his eclectic pursuits as high school teacher, university librarian, publisher, gun-runner and guerrilla fuel his poetic drive?
Obi Nwakanma —
Obi Nwakanma, journalist and poet, is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri.
Nwakanma, Obi. Christopher Okigbo, 1930-67: thirsting for sunlight. James Currey/HEBN, 2010. 276p index; ISBN 9781847010131. Reviewed in 2010nov CHOICE.
Okigbo is on the list of the many who died before their time. Born into the Ibo minority in eastern Nigeria, the young Okigbo was a promising athlete, voracious reader, fine student, flamboyant friend and lover, and budding poet. He discovered his literary gift early and gravitated toward such literati as Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, and Wole Soyinka, who recognized his gift and encouraged him through his brief but very active life. Okigbo was killed in action in the Biafra civil war when the separatist Ibos were overrun and slaughtered by the Nigerian federal forces. He was 37. This study of Okigbo's life and the many things that informed his literary career is extensive and well written. Nwakanma (English, Truman State Univ.) was thorough in researching Okigbo's life, but he traces it especially well through his school and university years. One need go no further than this volume to learn what there is to know about Okigbo and his tragically shortened life and literary career. Those interested in supporting an international curriculum, whether or not they are directly involved with African literature, will want this volume.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. -- P. W. Stine, retired, Gordon College