The late Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian author who put his nation and the continent of Africa on the literary map by way of his debut novel, Things Fall Apart. Today is Achebe’s birthday and also the 60th year since the publication of his globally celebrated work.
Albert Chinualumogua Achebe was born in British-occupied Nigeria in the Igbo town of Ogidi. A stellar student as a young man, Achebe won a scholarship to study medicine at the University of Ibadan, but found English literature to be his true passion. After leaving the school in 1953, Achebe taught briefly before working for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service in Lagos.
It was around this time Achebe began writing Things Fall Apart, which was challenging considering very little had been written about African life at the time. In 1958, Things Fall Apart was released and was critically acclaimed from the onset.
The book’s protagonist was Okonkwo, an Igbo wrestling champion who had many wives and children while remaining true to the traditions of his people. Set in three parts, the book evolves into the introduction of colonizers and Okonkwo’s resistance to their ways.
Achebe’s attention to fine details and patient storytelling style won audiences over. The book has been translated into 50 languages and has been used in English and literature classes as a masterwork of language and fine writing. It is considered the most widely read African novel ever created.
Along with five novels, Achebe penned several poems, essays, and children’s books that were also acclaimed by readers and critics alike. The rap group The Roots named their 4th album released in 1999 after the book.
In his later life, Achebe returned to teaching at the university level in the states. He passed in 2013 at the age of 82.
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