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African Writer

Chinua Achebe

Synopsis
Born in Nigeria in 1930, Chinua Achebe attended the University of Ibadan. In 1958, his
groundbreaking novel Things Fall Apart was published. It has since sold more than 12
million copies and been translated into more than 50 languages. Achebe is currently the
David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown
University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Early Years
Chinua Achebe (fully Albert Chinualumogu Achebe) was born on November 16, 1930, in
eastern Nigeria, in the Igbo town of Ogidi. After he was educated (in English) at the
University of Ibadan, Achebe taught briefly before joining the Nigerian Broadcasting
Corporation (NBC) as director of external broadcasting (19611966).
Just prior to joining NBC, Achebe saw his first novel published, 1958s Things Fall Apart. The
groundbreaking novel centers on the cultural clash between native African culture and the
traditional white culture of missionaries and the colonial government in place in Nigeria. An
unflinching look at the discord, the book was a startling success and has become required
reading in many schools across the world.

1960s and 1970s


The 1960s proved to be a creatively fertile period for Achebe, and he wrote the novels No
Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964) and A Man of the People (1966), all of which
address the issue of traditional ways of life coming into conflict with new, often colonial,
points of view. (Anthills of the Savannah [1987] took on a similar theme.) In a related
endeavor, in 1967, Chinua Achebe and Christopher Okigbo, a renowned poet, cofounded a
publishing company, the Citadel Press, which they intended to run as an outlet for a new
kind of African-oriented childrens books. Okigbo was soon killed, however, in the Nigerian
civil war. Two years later, Achebe toured the United States with Gabriel Okara and Cyprian
Ekwensi, fellow writers, giving lectures at various universities. The 1960s also marked
Achebes wedding to Christie Chinwe Okoli in 1961, and they went on to have four children.
When he returned to Nigeria from the United States, Achebe became a research fellow and

later a professor of English (19761981) at the University of Nigeria. During this time he also
served as director of two Nigerian publishing houses, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.
and Nwankwo-Ifejika Ltd.
On the writing front, the 1970s proved equally productive, and Achebe published several
collections of short stories and a childrens book, How the Leopard Got His Claws (1973).
Also coming out at this time were Beware, Soul-Brother (1971) and Christmas in
Biafra(1973), both poetry collections, and Achebes first book of essays,Morning Yet on
Creation Day (1975). While back in the United States in 1975, at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst Achebe gave a lecture called An Image of Africa: Racism in
Conrad's Heart of Darkness, in which Achebe asserted that Conrad's famous novel
dehumanizes Africans. The work referred to Conrad as a thoroughgoing racist, and, when
published in essay form, it went on to become a seminal postcolonial African work.
Later Years
The year 1987 would mark the release of Achebes Anthills of the Savannah, which was
shortlisted for the Booker McConnell Prize. The following year he published Hopes and
Impediments (1988), but the 1990s began with tragedy as Achebe was in a car accident in
Nigeria that left him paralyzed from the waist down and would confine him to a wheelchair
for the rest of his life. Soon after, he moved to the United States and taught at Bard College,
just north of New York City, where he remained for 15 years. In 2009 Achebe left Bard to join
the faculty of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Chinua Achebe has won several awards over the course of his writing career, among them
the Man Booker International Prize (2007) and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2010). He
has also received honorary degrees from more than 30 universities around the world.

Achebe's Style:
Achebe's style is one of the most well regarded styles of current authors, nearly
revolutionary in impact. Although it may have a defamiliarizing effect upon some readers
because of its stark simplicity, it is actually full of depth and complexity despite appearances.
Very realistic and brief, it conveys as close as possible in English the language also spoken
by the Ibo. By sprinkling the language with proverbs and other cultural references, Achebe
slowly and naturally introduces the reader to Ibo culture. Achebe's honest and stunning style
make him the ideal spokesman for African Literature, or as little of it as the West can
understand.
[based upon Contemporary Authors by Melissa Culrose]
Since the 1950's, Nigeria has witnessed "the flourishing of a new literature which has
drawn sustenance from both traditional oral literature and from the present and rapidly
changing society," writes Margaret Laurence in her book Long Drums and Cannons:
Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists. Thirty years ago Chinua Achebe was one of the founders
of this new literature, and over the years many critics have come to consider him the finest of
the Nigerian novelists. His achievement, however, has not been limited to his continent. He
is considered by many to be one of the best novelists now writing in the English language.

Unlike some African writers struggling for acceptance among contemporary English
language novelists, Achebe has been able to avoid imitating the trends in English literature.
Rejecting the European notion "that art should be accountable to no one, and [needs] to
justify itself to nobody," as he puts it in his book of essays, Morning Yet on Creation Day,
Achebe has embraced instead the idea at the heart of the African oral tradition: that "art is,
and always was, at the service of man. Our ancestors created their myths and told their
stories for a human purpose." For this reason, Achebe believes that "any good story, any
good novel, should have a message, should have a purpose."
Achebe's feel for the African context has influenced his aesthetic of the novel as well as the
technical aspects of his work. As Bruce King comments in Introduction to Nigerian Literature:
"Achebe was the first Nigerian writer to successfully transmute the conventions of the novel,
a European art form, into African literature." In an Achebe novel, King notes, "European
character study is subordinated to the portrayal of communal life; European economy of
form is replaced by an aesthetic appropriate to the rhythms of traditional tribal life."
SELECTED HONORS AND AWARDS:

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, 2010

Man Booker International Award, 2007

1st Living Author presented in the Everyman's Library collection by Alfred A. Knopf,
1992
Rockefeller Fellowship, 1960

UNESCO Fellowship for Creative Artists, 1960

Margaret Wrong Prize

The New Statesman Jock Campbell Prize

The Commonwealth Poetry Prize

SELECTED NOVELS:

Anthills of the Savanna (Anchor Press, 1987)

A Man of the People (Anchor Press, 1966)

Arrow of God (Anchor Press, 1964)

No Longer At Ease (Anchor Press, 1960)

Things Fall Apart (Anchor Press, 1958)


SELECTED ESSAYS:

"2009 Blessed Pope John XXIII Lecture Series" in Theology and Culture (University
of Notre Dame, Forthcoming)

"The Igbo and their Perception of God, Human Beings and Creation" (2009)

"Education of a British Protected Child" (Alfred A Knopf, 2009)

"Home and Exile" (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Beyond hunger in Africa: Conventional Wisdom and an African Vision (Heinemann; J.


Currey, 1990)
"Nigerian Topics" (1989)

"The University and the Leadership Factor in Nigerian Politics" (Abic Books &
Equipment, 1988)

"Hopes and Impediments" (Doubleday, 1988)

"The World of Ogbanje" (Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1986)

"The Trouble With Nigeria" (Heinemann, 1983)

"Morning Yet on Creation Day" (Anchor Press, 1975)

SELECTED SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS:

The Voter (Viva Books, 1994)


Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories (Heinemann, 1992)
African Short Stories (Heinemann, 1985)
Girls at War and Other Stories (Doubleday, 1973)
The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories (Etudo, 1962)

SELECTED POETRY:

Collected Poems (Carcanet Press, 2005)

Another Africa (Anchor Press, 1998)

Don't Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo (Fourth
Dimension Publishers, 1978)

Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems (Doubleday, 1973)

Beware, Soul Brother (Heinemann Educational, 1972)


SELECTED CHILDREN'S BOOKS:

The Flute (Fourth Dimension, 1977)

The Drum (Fourth Dimension, 1977)

How The Leopard Got His Claws (Third Press, 1973)

Chike and the River (Cambridge University Press, 1966)