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Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (born November 16, 1930) is a Nigerian novelist and poet, an esteemed and controversial literary critic, and one of the most widely read authors of the 20th century. A diplomat in the ill-fated Biafran government of 1967-1970, Achebe is primarily interested in African politics, the depiction of Africa and Africans in the West, and the intricacies of pre-colonial African culture and civilization, as well as the effects of colonialization on African societies.

Achebe's 1958 novel Things Fall Apart considers the effects of colonialization on Igbo society, and has been translated into over 50 languages. Well known for his classic critical text on Joseph Conrad, Achebe's 2001 Home and Exile reiterated his long-standing belief that Africa and Africans were being unfairly marginalized and dismissed by European and Western-oriented intellectuals.

He was once recalled by Nelson Mandela as a writer "in whose company the prison walls fell down." In June 2007, Achebe was announced as the winner of the Man Booker International Prize in honour of his literary career.


Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born in Ogidi, modern-day Anambra State, on November 16, 1930, the son of Protestant converts Isaiah Okafo and Janet N. Iloegbunam Achebe. He attended Government College in Umuahia from 1944 to 1947, and the University of Ibadan from 1948 to 1953. At the University of Ibadan, then known as University College, Ibadan, Achebe studied English, history and theology. The University of Ibadan produced a plethora of remarkable poets and authors in the years before and after Achebe's presence there, including Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Elechi Amadi, John Pepper Clark, and Christopher Okigbo.

Achebe's defining work, Things Fall Apart, was published in 1958, and is often considered among the finest novels ever written. Having sold over 10 million copies around the world, it has been translated into 50 languages, making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time. Things Fall Apart has also appeared on numerous lists of the 100 greatest novels of all time, including those published in Norway (Norwegian Book Club), the United Kingdom (Guardian and Observer), the United States (Radcliffe Publishing Course list of top 100 novels of the 20th century) and Africa (Africa's Best Books of the 20th Century).

Achebe proceeded to study broadcasting at the British Broadcasting Corporation, becoming the first Director of External Broadcasting at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1961. During the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970, he took a position with the Biafran government as an ambassador, an experience that informed and inspired much of his work, including his celebrated poem, "Refugee Mother and Child." The war devastated Nigeria. Christopher Okigbo, a friend and associate of Achebe from his days at the University of Ibadan, would lose his life in the war and humanitarian catastrophe that was to befall the region. Achebe's poem, "Dirge for Okigbo", originally written in the Igbo language in 1971 but translated to English for later publication, is based on a traditional Igbo dirge.

Later life

A founding editor of Okike, Achebe was also active in the Igbo-language journal of poetry and literary criticism Uwa ndi Igbo, as well as numerous other publications. The founding editor of Heinemann Publisher's African Writers Series, a body of work that has emerged as a cornerstone of postcolonial literature, Achebe was instrumental in introducing the world to new writing from Africa.

His treatise of literary criticism, An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", has become one of the most influential, controversial, widely studied and debated essays of its kind in classrooms around the world. Decrying Joseph Conrad as "a thoroughgoing racist", Achebe asserts that Conrad's famous novel dehumanizes Africans, rendering Africa as "a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril."

Many scholars have suggested that Achebe has had to bear a heavy burden both for his criticism of Conrad, and for his more general criticism of European and Western racism.[11] Despite a lifetime as "a literary champion of his people and crusader for the dignity of the voiceless and dispossessed everywhere," Achebe has never received a Nobel Prize, an omission that has often been criticized.[12]

   I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past - with all its imperfections - was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God's behalf delivered them.
   – Chinua Achebe , Morning Yet on Creation Day, 1975

In criticizing Albert Schweitzer, a 1952 Nobel Peace Prize laureate himself, Achebe was attacking a man widely revered in the West for his "reverence for life", an esteemed paragon of Western liberalism; while Achebe was not the first critic to allege Schweitzer's presumption of superiority over his African patients, Achebe was perhaps the most prominent voice to articulate the criticism. Achebe may have further alienated the Nobel Prize committee with his 1985 criticism of V.S. Naipaul as "a brilliant writer who sold himself to the West... And one day he'll be 'rewarded' with maybe a Nobel Prize or something." Naipaul won a Nobel Prize in 2001.

Paralyzed from the waist down after a 1990 car accident, Achebe is currently Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, United States. He is married to Professor Christie Chinwe Achebe, with whom he has four children.


He just won the United States best literature award [1]

Achebe is the recipient of over 30 honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria and the United States, including Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown, Haverford College, Southampton, Guelph, University of Toronto, University of the Witwatersrand, and Obafemi Awolowo University.

Achebe has received numerous awards for his work, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize; the New Statesman Jock Campbell Prize; the Margaret Wrong Prize; the Nigerian National Trophy in 1961; and the Nigerian National Merit Award. In 2002, he was awarded the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

In 2004, Achebe declined to accept the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) – Nigeria's second highest honor – in protest of the state of affairs in his native country.

In June 2007, Achebe was named the winner of the Man Booker International Prize, in honour of his literary career.

Achebe Bibliography


   * Things Fall Apart, 1958
   * No Longer at Ease, 1960
   * Arrow of God, 1964
   * A Man of the People, 1966
   * Chike and the River, 1966
   * Anthills of the Savannah, 1987

Short Stories

   * The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories, 1962
   * Girls at War and Other Stories, 1973
   * African Short Stories (editor, with C.L. Innes), 1985
   * Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories (editor, with C.L. Innes), 1992
   * Civil Peace


   * Beware, Soul-Brother, and Other Poems, 1971 published in the US as *Christmas at Biafra, and Other Poems, 1973
   * Don't let him die: An anthology of memorial poems for Christopher Okigbo (editor, with Dubem Okafor), 1978
   * Another Africa, 1998
   * Collected Poems, 2004
   * Refugee Mother And Child

Essays, Criticism and Political Commentary

   * The Novelist as Teacher, 1965
   * An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", 1975
   * Morning Yet on Creation Day, 1975
   * The Trouble With Nigeria, 1984
   * Hopes and Impediments, 1988
   * Home and Exile, 2000

Children's Books

   * Dead Men's Path, 1972
   * How the Leopard Got His Claws (with John Iroaganachi), 1972
   * Marriage Is A Private Affair
   * The Flute, 1975
   * The Drum, 1978


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