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Chinua Achebe

Achebe, Chinua (chĭnˈwä ächāˈbā) [key], 1930–2013, Nigerian writer, b. Albert Chinualumogu Achebe. A graduate of University College, Ibadan (1953), Achebe, an Igbo who wrote in English, is one of Africa's most acclaimed authors, and is considered by some to be the father of modern African literature. He taught briefly before becoming an executive at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (1961–66). Pioneering in their portrayal of African life from an African perspective, his early novels are the groundbreaking Things Fall Apart (1958), which has been acclaimed his masterpiece and is probably the most widely read book by a black African writer; No Longer at Ease (1960); and Arrow of God (1964). Forming a thematic trilogy, these works poignantly describe the confusing and often destructive effects of European colonialism and Western values on individual characters as well as on Igbo society, Nigeria, and the newly independent African nations.

His next novel, the political satire A Man of the People (1966), foreshadowed Nigeria's 1966 coups. Achebe served as a diplomat (1966–68) for Biafra during the Nigerian civil war and later wrote two volumes of poetry, Beware, Soul Brother (1971) and Christmas in Biafra (1973), and one of literary essays, Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975), about the war. He taught at the Univ. of Nigeria, Nsukka (1976–81), and was founding editor (1971) of the influential journal Okike. Achebe returned to the novel with Anthills of the Savannah (1988), which explores the corruption and idealism of political life in postcolonial Africa. He also wrote numerous short stories, children's books, and essays. A paraplegic as a result of a 1990 automobile accident near Lagos, Achebe received medical treatment in London and in the United States, where he settled (1990). He taught at Bard College from 1990 to 2009 and at Brown from 2009 until his death. Three personal works, Home and Exile (2000), a collection of essays reflecting on his and his nation's coming of age; the autobiographical essays of The Education of a British-Protected Child (2009); and his memoir-history of the Biafran war, There Was a Country (2012), are the only books he published during this period. In 2007 he was awarded the Man Booker International Prize.

See B. Lindfors, ed., Conversations with Chinua Achebe (1997); biographies by Ezenwa-Obaeto (1997) and T. M. Sallah and N. Okonjo-Iweala (2003); studies by R. Wren (1980), B. C. Njoku (1984), C. L. Innes (1990), S. Gikandi (1991), K. H. Petersen and A. Rutherford, ed. (1991), R. O. Muoneke (1994), A. Gera (2001), E. N. Emenyonu, ed. (2003), M. Pandurang, ed. (2006), J. Morrison (2007), and B. Lindfors (2009); M. K. Booker, ed., The Chinua Achebe Encyclopedia (2003)

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


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