Chinua Achebe, christened at birth Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, was born in Ogidi in Eastern Nigeria on November 16, 1930, near the Niger River. His family was Christian in a village divided between Christians and the “others.” Achebe’s great-grandfather served as the model for Okonkwo, the protagonist of Things Fall Apart. Because he was an Ibo and a Christian, Achebe grew up conscious of how he differed not only from other Africans but also from other Nigerians. Achebe was one of the first graduates of University College at Ibadan in 1953. In 1954, he was made producer of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service and in 1958 became the founding editor of Heinemann’s African Writers series; this position and the publication, in that series, of Things Fall Apart, account for his vast influence among writers of his and the following generation.
Achebe married Christie Chinwe Okoli in 1961 and became the father of four children. When a civil war began in Nigeria in 1966 with the massacre of Achebe’s fellow tribesmen in the northern part of the country, Achebe returned to the east, hoping to establish in the new country of Biafra a publishing house with other young Ibo writers. One of this band was the poet Christopher Okigbo, killed later that year in action against federal forces. After Biafra’s defeat in the civil war, a defeat which meant for many of his compatriots imprisonment in camps and “reeducation,” Achebe has worked as an educator as well as a writer. He traveled to the United States on several occasions to serve as a guest lecturer or visiting professor, and he visited many countries throughout the world. In addition, his interest in politics led to his serving as the deputy national president of the People’s Redemption Party in 1983 and then as the president of the town union in Ogidi, Nigeria, in 1986.
Achebe served as visiting professor on an international scale. Universities at which he taught include Cambridge University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of California, Los Angeles. A 1990 car accident injured Achebe’s spine, confining him to a wheelchair. He spent six months recovering, then accepted an endowed professorship at New York’s Bard College. He continued to teach and write throughout the 1990’s.
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born on November 16, 1930, in Ogidi, in the Eastern Region of Nigeria. He gives some details about his family and his early life in an essay titled “Named for Victoria, Queen of England” (1973, in Morning Yet on Creation Day). His parents, Isaiah and Janet Achebe, were both Christian, his father an evangelist and church teacher. His maternal grandfather, like the character Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart, was a wealthy and distinguished community leader. He was not Christian, but he exercised tolerance when Achebe was converted. Achebe was baptized Albert Chinualumogu, named for Queen Victoria’s consort, but he dropped the Albert while at university, evidently as a reaction against the British and his Christian heritage. He has explained, however, that he was never really torn between the two cultures. He experienced none of the agony that is often evidenced in the works of other African writers, such as Cheikh Hamidou Kane. Achebe enjoyed the rituals of both religions. He did come to wonder if the apostates were not the Christians rather than the pagans, but he noted some advantages brought in by Christianity: education, certain humane reforms, paid jobs. Achebe seems to have exhibited a pragmatic and tolerant strain from the beginning.
For his secondary education, Achebe attended Government College, Umuahia (1944-1947), and he received a bachelor of arts degree from University College, Ibadan, in 1953. During the next twelve years he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, first as producer in Lagos (1954-1958), then as controller in Enugu (1959-1961), and finally as director of external broadcasting in Lagos (1961-1966). In 1961, he married Christiana Chinwe Okoli, and they had two sons and two daughters. Also during these years Achebe wrote his first four...
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Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born the fifth of six children of educated Igbo parents, Isaiah Okafor Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Achebe. He was born in Ogidi, a town in the eastern region of Nigeria. After converting to Christianity, Achebe’s father served as a catechist for the Church Missionary Society. From 1944 to 1948, Achebe attended the Government College, Umuahia, a highly competitive school, then received a scholarship to the University College, Ibadan (University of Ibadan). Initially, Achebe’s collegiate goal was to study medicine; however, his goals changed because of his interest in the academic areas of religion, history, and English literature. While at the University College, Achebe and several other students founded a literary journal, The University Herald. In addition to publishing works in the journal, Achebe served as the editor during his third year of matriculation at the institution.
After graduation in 1953, Achebe served as a teacher at the Merchant of Light School. He began working for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1954, and two years later, he trained at the British Broadcasting Corporation. He published the inaugural text for the Heinemann African Writers series, Things Fall Apart, in 1959. The publication of this novel significantly changed the trajectory of Achebe’s writing career and his life. The novel has been published in many languages and has sold more than eight million copies. Moreover, Things Fall Apart ushered Achebe into the center of the critical conversation on African literature and social-political thought, giving him a central place in the canon of world literature.
In addition to a prolific writing career, Achebe has had an outstanding academic portfolio. His visiting professorships include posts at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (1972-1975), the University of Connecticut (1975-1976), and City College of the City University of New York (1989). In 1986, Achebe was appointed pro-vice-chancellor of the State University of Anambra in Enugu. Achebe was the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College in 1990-2009. In September, 2009, he became the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and professor of Africana studies at Brown University.
In addition to being one of Africa’s most influential writers, Achebe is a family man. On September 10, 1961, he married Christie Chinwe Okoli, a professor of psychology. The couple had four children, Chinelo, Ikechukwu, Chidi, and Nwando.
Chinua Achebe (ah-CHAY-bay) was born in Ogidi, in the Eastern Region of Nigeria, on November 16, 1930, to Isaiah and Janet Achebe, who christened their son Albert Chinualumogu—the former name after Queen Victoria’s beloved consort and the latter a powerful name in Igbo—suggesting that strong inner forces stand aligned to fight for him. Isaiah Achebe, a catechist for the Church Missionary Society, and his wife traveled through eastern Nigeria as evangelists before settling in Ogidi, Isaiah’s ancestral Igbo village, five years after Chinua Achebe’s birth. Growing up in Ogidi, Achebe had contact with both Christian and Igbo religious beliefs and customs, but he developed a special affinity for his pagan uncle and his family.
Achebe’s first lessons were in Igbo at the church school in Ogidi, but he began studying English at age eight. An avid reader and outstanding student, fourteen-year-old Achebe entered Government College, a highly selective secondary school in Umuahia taught in English; many of his classmates went on to become prominent figures in Nigerian public life, including the poet Christopher Okigbo, who later helped Achebe found the Citadel Press and who died in the civil war. Upon graduation, Achebe accepted a Major Scholars medical scholarship to University College in Ibadan (an associate college of the University of London), a highly prestigious award resulting from his having attained the top African scores on the colonial examinations, but after one year he switched to English literature, forfeiting his scholarship but receiving financial assistance from his older brother John and other relatives.
Achebe and the Yoruban playwright Wole Soyinka, later Nigeria’s best-known authors, were undergraduates together at University College, each publishing his first work as undergraduates. Achebe’s first published fiction, “Polar Undergraduate,” later collected in Girls at War, and Other Stories (1972), satirizes student behavior. In his third year he edited the University Herald. The short stories produced while in school include “The Old Order in Conflict with the New” and “Dead Man’s Path.” After graduation in 1953, he took a producing position for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).
Achebe had sent his only copy of Things Fall Apart to a British typist, who set it aside without a glance, but his NBC superior Angela Beattie rescued it. Things Fall Apart was published in 1958 and won the Margaret Wrong Memorial Prize in 1959 for its contribution to African literature. If Achebe had never written anything else he would still stand as an acclaimed author because of the power and influence of that single volume, translated into fifty languages and selling more than eight million copies. In 1960, the year of Nigeria’s independence, Achebe published No Longer at Ease, winner of the Nigerian National Trophy. He spent the remainder of 1960 and part of 1961 traveling through east Africa and interviewing other African writers. Back in Nigeria, he held a number of offices with the Nigerian Broadcasting Company, including talks director, controller, and director of the Voice of Nigeria...
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A socially and politically committed storyteller and writer who has garnered worldwide critical acclaim, Chinua Achebe has, more than any other African author writing in English, redefined modern African literature and helped the world value African culture without ignoring the difficult problems postcolonial African nations face. For a lifetime, he has battled the corrosive effects of racism on individuals and on Africa as a whole. He writes about Africa for Africans, bridging three periods: from the colonial era of his birth, to the years of nationalist protest of his youth, to the modern age of Nigerian independence and the oppressive regimes that have dominated his country. His novels examine more than one hundred years of Igbo culture. Things Fall Apart will undoubtedly remain Achebe’s best-known work, but his entire canon makes a consistent and central contribution to the world’s literature.
Chinua Achebe (ah-CHAY-bay), who became known as the founder of the modern African novel, was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe in Ogidi, eastern Nigeria, on November 16, 1930. His father, Isaiah, was a Christian church teacher, but other relatives retained the traditional beliefs of their Igbo tribe. Young Achebe was educated at the local mission school, then at Government College, in nearby Umuahia, and finally at the national University College at Ibadan, where he received his B.A. in 1953. Following his graduation, Achebe worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation for a period of twelve years, rising from talks producer in the capital of Lagos to controller in Enugu to director of external broadcasting in Lagos again....
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