Achebe's novels let us have a close and real picture of the past and present African life with all their pains, pleasures and puzzles with immediacy and force. As he affirmed, Achebe wanted to convey through his novels that,
African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans; that their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty, that they had poetry and above all they had dignity."
Besides trying to instill pride and self-respect among his fellow Africans, Achebe's novels also provide the world a mode of perceiving Black aesthetics. The wisdom and philosophy, the poetry and beauty of traditional Africa are impressively subsumed in the language of his fiction. According to Ibo culture, a good speaker is he who uses language, with skill and wisdom. For the Ibos the core of conversation is the appropriate use of proverbs. They believe,
Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten."
In all his novels Achebe makes prolific use of proverbs and popular adages. They reflect the good and the lean times through which their societies pass.
n the late twentieth century Chinua Achebe arose as one of Nigeria’s favored sons. Albert Chinualumogu was born in Ogidi, Nigeria, November 16, 1930, and later adopted Chinua Achebe (Ravenscroft, 1986, p. 5). His upbringing was privileged, his father Isaiah one of the early Christians in hi s Igbo village. A statesman, Kwame Nkrumah, also known as the “pride of Africa,” represented the new African political leader and was an early influence upon Chinua Achebe, as Nkrumah’s return from London to the Gold Coast (then a British colony) coincided with unrest throughout the colonial British empire (Burns, 1995, p. 100; Couto, 1995, p. 103).
Achebe's style is one of the most well regarded styles of current authors, nearly revolutionary in impact. Although it may have a defamiliarizing effect upon some readers because of its stark simplicity, it is actually full of depth and complexity despite appearances. Very realistic and brief, it conveys as close as possible in English the language also spoken by the Ibo. By sprinkling the language with proverbs and other cultural references, Achebe slowly and naturally introduces the reader to Ibo culture. Achebe's honest and stunning style make him the ideal spokesman for African Literature, or as little of it as the West can understand.
[based upon Contemporary Authors by Melissa Culrose]
Since the 1950's, Nigeria has witnessed "the flourishing of a new literature which has drawn sustenance from both traditional oral literature and from the present and rapidly changing society," writes Margaret Laurence in her book Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists. Thirty years ago Chinua Achebe was one of the founders of this new literature, and over the years many critics have come to consider him the finest of the Nigerian novelists. His achievement, however, has not been limited to his continent. He is considered by many to be one of the best novelists now writing in the English language.
Unlike some African writers struggling for acceptance among contemporary English language novelists, Achebe has been able to avoid imitating the trends in English literature. Rejecting the European notion "that art should be accountable to no one, and [needs] to justify itself to nobody," as he puts it in his book of essays, Morning Yet on Creation Day, Achebe has embraced instead the idea at the heart of the African oral tradition: that "art is, and always was, at the service of man. Our ancestors created their myths and told their stories for a human purpose." For this reason, Achebe believes that "any good story, any good novel, should have a message, should have a purpose."
Achebe's feel for the African context has influenced his aesthetic of the novel as well as the technical aspects of his work. As Bruce King comments in Introduction to Nigerian Literature: "Achebe was the first Nigerian writer to successfully transmute the conventions of the novel, a European art form, into African literature." In an Achebe novel, King notes, "European character study is subordinated to the portrayal of communal life; European economy of form is replaced by an aesthetic appropriate to the rhythms of traditional tribal life."
Fiction was his first love, and placed him on a pedestal. But his swansong, a stormy memoir beyond the fictive realm, threatened to knock him off his perch in the estimation of antagonists who faulted him for alleged inventiveness. Thus, ironically, the very quality that brought him fame, his rich talent for story-telling, became an albatross. Critics of his final work, released late last year, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, regarded it as the product of an overactive imagination.
The book was Chinua Achebe’s version of the three-year civil conflict (1967-1970) that nearly accomplished the dismemberment of Nigeria. His narrative romanticised the failed secession of his Igbo ethnic group, and painted the others on the side of unity as genocidal demons. This historical effort triggered an intense war of words across the country, showing remarkable divisions among Nigerians, 43 years after the fighting ceased. The thunder generated by the writing continued to rumble even till the author’s death on March 21, aged 82, in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Albert Chinualumogo Achebe known as Chinua Achebe is one living African writer widely acclaimed for his work in English Literature. Born to Christian evangelical parents he was raised in a town Ogidi,in Igboland, in Eastern Nigeria.
He got his early education in English and the Igbo traditions and colonial legacy played a great part in the growing years of his life. Thereafter, he went to University of Ibadan for further studies where he studied literature and medicine. After completing his graduation, he opted for teaching for a short period, but later on joined the Nigerian Broadcasting company in Lagos as Director of External Broad
Selected Honors and Awards:
The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, 2010
Man Booker International Award, 2007
1st Living Author presented in the Everyman's Library collection by Alfred A. Knopf, 1992
Rockefeller Fellowship, 1960
UNESCO Fellowship for Creative Artists, 1960
Margaret Wrong Prize
The New Statesman Jock Campbell Prize
The Commonwealth Poetry Prize
Anthills of the Savanna (Anchor Press, 1987)
A Man of the People (Anchor Press, 1966)
Arrow of God (Anchor Press, 1964)
No Longer At Ease (Anchor Press, 1960)
Things Fall Apart (Anchor Press, 1958)
"2009 Blessed Pope John XXIII Lecture Series" in Theology and Culture (University of Notre Dame, Forthcoming)
"The Igbo and their Perception of God, Human Beings and Creation" (2009)
"Education of a British Protected Child" (Alfred A Knopf, 2009)
"Home and Exile" (Oxford University Press, 2000)
Beyond hunger in Africa: Conventional Wisdom and an African Vision (Heinemann; J. Currey, 1990)
"Nigerian Topics" (1989)
"The University and the Leadership Factor in Nigerian Politics" (Abic Books & Equipment, 1988)
"Hopes and Impediments" (Doubleday, 1988)
"The World of Ogbanje" (Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1986)
"The Trouble With Nigeria" (Heinemann, 1983)
"Morning Yet on Creation Day" (Anchor Press, 1975)
SELECTED SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS:
The Voter (Viva Books, 1994)
Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories (Heinemann, 1992)
African Short Stories (Heinemann, 1985)
Girls at War and Other Stories (Doubleday, 1973)
The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories (Etudo, 1962)
Collected Poems (Carcanet Press, 2005)
Another Africa (Anchor Press, 1998)
Don't Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo (Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1978)
Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems (Doubleday, 1973)
Beware, Soul Brother (Heinemann Educational, 1972)
SELECTED CHILDREN'S BOOKS:
The Flute (Fourth Dimension, 1977)
The Drum (Fourth Dimension, 1977)
How The Leopard Got His Claws (Third Press, 1973)
Chike and the River (Cambridge University Press, 1966)
Chinua Achebe's long, brilliant career includes many years in broadcasting, teaching, publishing, and creative writing. Rejecting the art for art's sake school of thought, Achebe insists that art has social value and function and the artist has a role to play in social change. He sees the writer as a teacher, moral voice, truth-teller, and social critic (Morning Yet on Creation Day, Hopes and Impediments, and The Trouble with Nigeria), and as a storyteller and a guardian of the word and memory (Anthills of the Savannah).
A versatile writer who has published short stories, essays, and poetry, Achebe is best known for his novels, which are written with a simplicity that is both elegant and poetic...
Things Fall Apart addresses the theme of war and peace in a number of ways. Achebe challenges the European perception of Africans as savages needing to be pacified by presenting his characters as complex human beings motivated by feelings such as love, pride, fear, envy, and duty. From the beginning, however, Achebe emphasizes the importance of war and violence in the Ibo society...
His public life began in his mid-20s, when Nigeria was still under British rule. He was a resident of London when he completed his handwritten manuscript for “Things Fall Apart,” a short novel about a Nigerian tribesman’s downfall at the hands of British colonialists.
Turned down by several publishers, the book was finally accepted by Heinemann and released in 1958 with a first printing of 2,000. Its initial review in The New York Times ran less than 500 words, but the novel soon became among the most important books of the 20th century, a universally acknowledged starting point for postcolonial, indigenous African fiction, the prophetic union of British letters and African oral culture.
Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian author and towering man of letters whose internationally acclaimed fiction helped to revive African literature and to rewrite the story of a continent that had long been told by Western voices, died on Thursday in Boston. He was 82.
His agent in London said he had died after a brief illness. Mr. Achebe had used a wheelchair since a car accident in Nigeria in 1990 left him paralyzed from the waist down.