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Chinua Achebe (Albert Chinualumogu Achebe) Biography

(1930– ), (Albert Chinualumogu Achebe), Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God

Nigerian novelist, poet, and critic, born in Ogidi, Eastern Nigeria, educated at the University College of Ibadan. Before the Nigerian Civil War (196770), Achebe worked as a broadcaster. Among other academic appointments, he was Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, and Emeritus Professor of Literature at the University of Nigeria (Nsukka). His first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), is one of the most famous African novels in English, and has been translated into many languages. It imaginatively recreates traditional life in Igbo villages before the onset of modernity, and focuses on the headstrong Okonkwo who opposes, with tragic consequences, both converted Christians and British colonial interference. As in much of Achebe's work, the novel subtly interweaves traditional story-telling and modern narrative. Moving from tragedy to satiric irony, No Longer at Ease (1960) follows the fate of Okonkwo's grandson, Obi, who obtains a loan from his village to be educated in England. The novel examines the pressures leading to white-collar corruption in Nigeria. Arrow of God (1964), set in the 1920s, focuses on Ezeulu, the chief priest of an Igbo village, and his conflict with his Western-educated son, who has become a Christian convert. These three novels were published as The African Trilogy in 1988. A Man of the People (1966), a bitter satire about a demagogic politician, was so prophetic about the imminence of domestic military intervention in an independent Nigeria that only two days after its first publication the country suffered its first military coup. As a literary and cultural critic, Achebe has consistently argued that the African novel must deal with social realities, and avoid a spurious universality, as advocated by ‘colonialist critics’. In 1969 Achebe undertook an American speaking tour, together with Gabriel Okara and Cyprian Ekwensi, on behalf of the Biafran cause. Beware Soul Brother (1971, revised 1972; US title Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems, 1973), a collection of poems, and Girls at War and Other Stories (1972) reflect his reactions to the Nigerian Civil War. His essays are collected in Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975) and Hopes and Impediments (1988). Two of his most controversial essays are ‘The Novelist as Teacher’ and ‘An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness’. Achebe has also written collections of short stories including The Sacrificial Egg (1962), as well as children's books. His novel Anthills of the Savannah (1987) is a coruscating portrayal of power corrupting a ruling clique, most of whose members had been at school together. Internal rivalries, a collective inability to control, and the paranoid tendencies of a Sandhurst-trained military ruler lead to soul-searching on the part, particularly, of Ikem Osidi, poet and newspaper editor, and Chris Oriko, Commissioner for Education, both helped by the emancipated Beatrice Okoh. Achebe is the editor of The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories (1992). See C. L. Innes, Chinua Achebe (1990).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: 110A Piccadilly to Nelson Algren Biography