Friday, July 7, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Ode to Abiola Irele

Professor Abiola Irele, doyen of African literary Scholarship and a great promoter of African literature, is dead! It seems like a dream. I met him first at the University of Ibadan's Staff club in 1992 or 1993. I strolled in and he was sitting down with Harry Garuba drinking beer - I think Star beer. Before I could lower myself into a chair, Harry jokingly admonished, "Godwin, what are you doing here; are you not supposed to be in class!" I was a student, Harry's student, in fact. It was early afternoon. I lowered myself into a seat, anyway. And Professor Irele looked at me then chided Harry Garuba in the same light-hearted manner: "Leave the young man alone; don't you know that the best brains are 'preserved in alcohol' ?!" He was making a connection between the cerebral activity that drinking can inspire and the medical art of the preservation (in alcohol) of the brain matter of a departed genius. In that short statement I understood... The drinker as genius; the drink as elixir of incredible cognitive production and intellection. And I belonged to the poets' circle, "Thursday Group", of which Harry Garuba , was unofficial head, and of which there were copious beer drinkers who were incredibly brilliant and cerebral human beings. So I understood Irele at once and recognized a kindred spirit. I sat down and had a drink with the great. He was visiting from his base in the USA. Many years later 2009 or 2010, I met him at an African Literature Association conference in the USA either the U Vermont Conference or the U Arizona one. It was 20 plus years after our first brief meeting at UI Guest House. There was no way he would have recognized me. So I went up to him and reminded him of the one encounter in the 1990s and repeated his double entendre: "The best brains are preserved in alcohol". And he says without batting an eyelid as if there were not many years in-between the first meeting and this one: "You have a good memory!" At other times and this year, 2017, I was in touch by email. He encouraged me to contribute to his new journal effort, Savannah Review. I was not to know it would be the last conversation ever. I am sad but I will try to be happy. I think he would not want me to be sad now but to celebrate him. He lived a full life, he was distinguished, celebrated and a scholar of scholars. I need not be sad. I will go and pour libations to him in his capacity as a new-minted ancestor. I will drink a beer to his eternal presence and argue with him about one or two things as I imbibe, keeping in mind the thought that 'the best brains are preserved in alcohol'. Adieu Abiola Irele. Sun-un re o-o!


Listserv moderated by Toyin Falola, University of Texas at Austin
To post to this group, send an email to
To subscribe to this group, send an email to
Current archives at
Early archives at
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "USA Africa Dialogue Series" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to
For more options, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment

Vida de bombeiro Recipes Informatica Humor Jokes Mensagens Curiosity Saude Video Games Car Blog Animals Diario das Mensagens Eletronica Rei Jesus News Noticias da TV Artesanato Esportes Noticias Atuais Games Pets Career Religion Recreation Business Education Autos Academics Style Television Programming Motosport Humor News The Games Home Downs World News Internet Car Design Entertaimment Celebrities 1001 Games Doctor Pets Net Downs World Enter Jesus Variedade Mensagensr Android Rub Letras Dialogue cosmetics Genexus Car net Só Humor Curiosity Gifs Medical Female American Health Madeira Designer PPS Divertidas Estate Travel Estate Writing Computer Matilde Ocultos Matilde futebolcomnoticias girassol lettheworldturn topdigitalnet Bem amado enjohnny produceideas foodasticos cronicasdoimaginario downloadsdegraca compactandoletras newcuriosidades blogdoarmario arrozinhoii sonasol halfbakedtaters make-it-plain amatha