Chinua Achebe, renowned as Africa’s most famous novelist and author who died in Boston, USA, on 21st March 2013 at the age of 82. He is recognized as the founding father of Modern African writing in English.
The publication of his first novel Things Fall Apart not only contested European narratives about Africa but also challenged traditional assumptions about the form and function of the novel.
His literary life spanned over fifty years, from the publication of Things Fall Apart (1958) to There Was A Country (2012), his memoir of the Nigerian Biafran war in the 1960s. His first novel, Things Fall Apart – a classic of 20th century fiction has been translated into over 50 languages and sold millions of copies all over the world.
Before Achebe came on the world literary scene in the late 1950s, African literature was considered by the rest of the world and more sadly, by many educated Africans themselves, as a quixotic enterprise, in which dark forests and evil spirits held all the shares. Achebe was not only an accomplished writer but also a man who was close to his readers and had the precious gift of being a great communicator and storyteller of African realities. His legacy as one of Africa’s most vocal voices against the ravages of colonialism and its long-term effects on Africa will endure through his writings for generations to come.
This volume is a fitting memorial to his legacy. Achebe was the conscience of Africa – his death gives new significance to his writing, anchoring his activism and his literary legacy in eternity. He will be remembered internationally as one of Africa’s greatest writers.
Chinua Achebe (born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe; 16 November 1930 - 21 March 2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic. His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) was considered his magnum opus, and is the most widely read book in modern African literature.
Raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in South-Eastern Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Achebe wrote his novels in English and defended the use of English, a "language of colonisers", in African literature. In 1975, his lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" featured a famous criticism of Joseph Conrad as "a thoroughgoing racist"; it was later published in The Massachusetts Review amid some controversy.
When the region of Biafra broke away from Nigeria in 1967, Achebe became a supporter of Biafran independence and acted as ambassador for the people of the new nation. The war ravaged the populace, and as starvation and violence took its toll, he appealed to the people of Europe and the Americas for aid. When the Nigerian government retook the region in 1970, he involved himself in political parties but soon resigned due to frustration over the corruption and elitism he witnessed. He lived in the United States for several years in the 1970s, and returned to the U.S. in 1990 after a car accident left him partially disabled.
A titled Igbo chieftain himself, Achebe's novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of Western and traditional African values during and after the colonial era. His style relies heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. He also published a number of short stories, children's books, and essay collections. From 2009 until his death, he served as David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown.