Other Literary Forms (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
In addition to his short-story collections, Chinua Achebe is known for essays, poetry collections, and children’s literature. He is best known, however, for his novel No Longer at Ease (1960), which became a modern African classic. The book is the second in a trilogy about change, conflict, and personal struggle to find the “New Africa.” The first is Things Fall Apart (1958) and the third is Arrow of God (1964). Achebe’s fourth novel, A Man of the People (1966), was followed twenty-one years later by Anthills of the Savannah (1987), his fifth novel. In 1984 he became the founder and publisher of Uwa Ndi Igbo: A Bilingual Journal of Igbo Life and Arts. Achebe edited volumes of African short fiction, including African Short Stories (1985) and The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Fiction (1992), both with C. L. Innes.
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Chinua Achebe received awards or award nominations for each of his novelistic works, from the Margaret Wrong Memorial Prize for Things Fall Apart to a Booker McConnell Prize nomination for Anthills of the Savannah. He was also awarded a Rockefeller travel fellowship in 1960 and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Fellowship for creative artists in 1963. In 1979 he received the Nigerian National Merit Award and was named to the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Achebe received honorary doctorates from universities around the world, including Dartmouth College in 1972 and Harvard University in 1996.
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Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
The short stories of Chinua Achebe (ah-CHAY-bay), written over a period of twenty years, were first published in England by Heinemann under the title Girls at War, and Other Stories (1972), although most of them had already appeared in various periodicals and in a Nigerian publication, The Sacrificial Egg, and Other Short Stories (1962). Achebe’s poems, most of them written during the Biafran crisis (1967-1970), came out soon after the war as Beware: Soul Brother, and Other Poems (1971) and a year later in an enlarged edition. Doubleday then published this Heinemann collection in the United States as Christmas in Biafra, and Other Poems (1973). Additional poems and an essay by Achebe were combined with photographs by Robert Lyons in a full-color coffee-table book, Another Africa (1998), which provided an overview of the beauty and complexity of modern Africa. Achebe has gathered together various autobiographical, political, literary, and cultural essays under the intriguingly optimistic title Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975), published by both Doubleday and Heinemann. In 1983, Heinemann published his short book The Trouble with Nigeria, which challenged his contemporaries to overcome their growing resignation. Hopes and Impediments (1988) brings together some fifteen essays, mainly on literature and the writer’s role and covering a twenty-three-year period, some of them previously...
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
From the beginning of his literary career, with the publication of Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe recognized and accepted his role as that of a spokesman for black Africa. The primary function of that role was to reinterpret the African past from an African’s point of view. This he successfully does in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God, which correct the imperialist myth of African primitivism and savagery by re-creating the Igbo culture of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, its daily routines, its rituals, its customs, and especially its people, dealing with one another in a highly civilized fashion within a complex society. The reinterpretation necessitated, as well, a look at the invading culture; Achebe tilted the balance in the Africans’ favor by depicting individuals in the British administration as prejudiced, imperceptive, unnecessarily bureaucratic, and emotionally impotent. As his main subject was the African crisis, he did not go to great pains to explore the private lives of the British or to mollify the British public. He needed to show that white civilization and white people were not intrinsically superior, and to restore to Africans a respect for their own culture and their own lives.
Achebe did not conceive his role as that of a mere propagandist, however, as any reader of the novels would acknowledge. His interpretation paid due respect to Western civilization and seriously criticized aspects of his own. In...
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Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
Chinua Achebe (ah-CHAY-bay) is a writer who has made important contributions in every literary genre. He is known primarily for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1959). His other novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Achebe’s short stories are collected in The Sacrificial Egg, and Other Stories (1962) and Girls at War, and Other Stories (1972). He has also published collections of essays: Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975), An Image of Africa (1977), The Trouble with Nigeria (1983), Hopes and Impediments (1988), Home and Exile (2000), and Education of a British-Protected Child (2009). In addition to his contributions as a poet, novelist, short-story writer, and essayist, Ache has written books for children: Chike and the River (1966), How the Leopard Got His Claws (1972; with John Iroaganachi), The Flute (1977), and The Drum (1977). He has also edited numerous works, including Don’t Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo, 1937-1967 (1978; with Dubem Okafor).
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
Chinua Achebe is known as the founder of modern African writing. His many awards include the Margaret Wrong Memorial Prize (1959) for Things Fall Apart, the Nigerian National Trophy for Literature (1961), the Jock Campbell-New Statesman Award for Literature for Arrow of God (1966), the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1972, joint winner), the Afro-Asian Writers Association’s Lotus Award (1975), the Nigerian National Merit Award (1979), the Triple Eminence Award from the Association of Nigerian Authors (1990), the Langston Hughes Award (1993), the Campion Medal and Order of Kilimanjaro Award (both 1996), the German Booksellers Peace Prize (2002), and the Man Booker International Prize (2007). He was named Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (Nigeria) in 1979, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1981, an honorary foreign fellow of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1982, and an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2002. In 1998, he was the McMillan-Steward Lecturer at Harvard University and the Presidential Fellow Lecturer at the World Bank.
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Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Examine Chinua Achebe’s ideas about conflict, violence, and war in at least two of his works. What do humans do to other humans, and why? Who or what do people blame for things going wrong? Provide examples to support your assertions.
According to Achebe, the traditional African way of life fell apart and Africa is now a corrupt imitation of European systems, religions, and manners. What things “fell apart” with the coming of the Europeans? What valuable aspects of African culture have been lost?
Examine the nature of Achebe’s heroes. For example, what makes Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart or Ezeulu in Arrow of God tragic heroes? Are they heroes in the Western tradition?
How does Achebe depict the role of women in Igbo culture? What is the significance of the proverb “Mother is supreme”? Consider how Okonkwo’s attitudes toward women help bring about his fall or their invention of a new kind of storytelling in Anthills of the Savannah.
Outline the structure of one of Achebe’s novels or chapters. Is it loose or tight? What role does repetition play? Can topic ideas be readily identified or are they buried in the text? How does the structure relate to his message and/or goals?
What parallels do you find between the fictional state of Kangan in Anthills of the Savannah and Idi Amin’s Uganda? Why would Achebe create a fictional African state rather than write...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Achebe, Chinua. “The Art of Fiction: Chinua Achebe.” Interview by Jerome Brooks. The Paris Review 36 (Winter, 1994): 142-166. In this interview, Achebe discusses his schooling, work as a broadcaster, and views on other writers as well as the nature of his writing process and the political situation in Nigeria.
Achebe, Chinua. Home and Exile. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. An exploration, based on Achebe’s own experiences as a reader and a writer, of contemporary African literature and the Western literature that both influenced and misrepresented it.
Bolland, John. Language and the Quest for Political and Social Identity in the African Novel. Accra, Ghana: Woeli, 1996. This volume examines Achebe’s novel Anthills of the Savannah, among others, but it is valuable for its examination of African fiction and history, touching on themes found in Achebe’s short stories.
Booker, M. Keith, ed. The Chinua Achebe Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003. A helpful reference in an encyclopedia format featuring several hundred alphabetically arranged entries. Some of the entries are summary discussions of Achebe’s major works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Carroll, David. Chinua Achebe: Novelist, Poet, Critic. Rev. 2d ed. Basingstoke,...
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