Acclaimed African novel is published as Gaeilge
2019-03-01 00:00:00 -

By Chinedu Onyejelem


An Irish translation of Africa’s greatest novels has been published to wide acclaim.


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was translated by Irene Lynch, wife of former Irish Ambassador to Nigeria Joseph Lynch.


Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland Dr Uzoma Emenike hosted the recent launch of Lynch’s work Titeann Rudaí as a Chéile, which she said “strengthened the relationship between Nigeria and Ireland”.


She encouraged readers to look out for the character Okonkwo, considered one of the greatest warriors of Igboland’s pre-colonial era.


Lynch said the translation of the 1960 literary prizewinner, which was several years in the making, was a dream come true.


“I had been absorbed in [Achebe’s] work following my arriving in Lagos in September 1998 and spent such a long time reading and reading Things Fall Apart, relishing every word thought and concept, and all the while knowing it was hugely connected to my becoming hugely connected and absorbed to the amazing new cultures I was living within,” she said.


While writing a book on Nigerian elders to mark the UN Year of the Elderly, Lynch said she had the rare opportunity to meet and interview Achebe himself.


Explaining how that happened, she said: “I was at a dinner in Lagos [and I] said to the woman beside me that Chinua Achebe was about to visit and how much I would adore to meet him and interview him.”


Coincidentally, the woman was married to a nephew and godchild of Achebe and she brought Lynch to their community in Ogidi.


Lynch’s book Treasures of Our Elders-Words of Wisdom was published by Academy Press Lagos in 2002, and she said $34,000 in proceeds from its sales was donated to “the Little Sisters of the Poor in Enugu, who care for the elderly destitute in the villages.


“My aunt, after who I am named, was a Little Sister of the Poor in Paris.”


Lynch is proud of translating Achebe’s greatest book, the title of which was taken from a poem by Irish writer William Butler Yeats.


“Now having translated Things Fall Apart into Irish, I know this book inside out. I always felt in Nigeria that the different ethnic groups, like ourselves here in Ireland, were between two cultures: western and their own. I could go on about that.”


She added: “We spent five years in Nigeria and I loved every second of every day during those years.”


In recognition of their tremendous contributions to strengthening of links with Nigeria, Lynch and her husband were presented with an honorary Nigerian chieftainship.


Titeann Rudaí as a Chéile is published by Coisceim and available in all leading bookshops priced €12.

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