Chinua Achebe Essays

He and his young family were forced to flee the fighting. Last year Achebe finally published his sorrowful account of the tragedy and the government’s ruthless suppression of the rebellion.

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That decision was to change his life and the landscape of African literature.

Growing up, he had absorbed Western prejudices so thoroughly that, he later wrote, “I did not see myself as an African to begin with.” But in college, it dawned on him that he had given up too much of his identity and could not accept white authors’ portrayals of Africans as culturally inferior and subhuman.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called him “a cultural icon” and said that his “frank, truthful and fearless interventions in national affairs will be greatly missed at home in Nigeria.”Achebe wrote short stories, essays, poetry and children’s books in addition to five novels and edited collections of modern African literature.

Awarded the Man Booker prize for his life’s work in 2007, he remains best known for “Things Fall Apart,” a complex portrait of colonialism’s impact on native Nigerian culture.

With more than 10 million copies sold in 50 languages, it established Achebe as the patriarch of modern African literature.

Achebe, who has been praised by Nelson Mandela as the writer who “brought Africa to the world,” died Friday in Boston after a brief illness. His death was announced by a government spokesman in Achebe’s home state of Anambra.

He reminded them how his generation of Africans had fought for freedom.“But we don’t seem to have a receipt,” he said.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Ngugi wa Thiongo as being one of Achebe’s fellow Nigerian writers, he is [email protected] staff writer Elaine Woo contributed to this report.

Time magazine called it “the best novel ever written about Africa.”Achebe was outraged.

He vowed that if someone as ignorant as Joyce Cary, the novel’s Anglo-Irish author, could write such a book, “perhaps I ought to try my hand at it.”The result was a masterpiece: “Things Fall Apart,” his 1958 debut novel, changed the face of world literature by presenting the colonization of Africa from an African point of view.


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