Name at birth: Albert Chinualumogu Achebe
Nigerian Chinua Achebe's 1958 novel Things Fall Apart remains one of the most important books in English by an African author. The first internationally successful book by an African, it set the stage for an examination of the history of European colonialism, and gave literary legitimacy in the West to authors from Africa. Achebe grew up in southeastern Nigeria (before it was an independent nation), and graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1953. After his education he moved to London, where he worked for British broadcasting and wrote his first novel, Things Fall Apart. The novel was well-received (and has since been translated into around 50 languages) and Achebe returned to Nigeria until the civil war there in the late 1960s drove him out of the country again. He was a professor in the United States during the 1970s, and in 1979 he returned to his homeland to be a professor at the University of Nigeria. A car accident in 1990 left him paralyzed, and Achebe moved to the United States, where he spent many years at Bard College and, later, Brown University. Despite a two-decade period of "writer's block," Achebe's reputation as the father of African literature didn't suffer, partly because of his early achievements, but also because he continued to work on poems, essays and children's books. His novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). His poetry books include 1971's Beware Soul Brothers.
The title of his most famous book, Things Fall Apart, comes from the W.B. Yeats poem, “The Second Coming.”