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Who is Chinua Achebe?

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Chinua Achebe, who was born on 16 November 1930, is an esteemed Nigerian writer. His full name is Albert Chinualumogu Achebe. Achebe is a writer of poetry, novels, children’s literature, and literary criticism. Some of his literary criticism has yielded hot debate among his professional peers. Much of his work focuses on African issues; politics on the African continent, the depiction of his people and other African peoples in Western cultures, the effects of colonization on Africa, and the culture of pre-colonial African peoples.

Achebe was a diplomat of the Biafran government during its short existence. The Republic of Biafra was a secessionist state in the southern part of Nigeria. It was named for the Bight of Biafra, which is a bay along the Atlantic Ocean. The Republic of Biafra existed only from 30 May 1967 through 15 January 1970.

Achebe is best known for his novel Things Fall Apart, which was published in 1958. Things Fall Apart has been read all over the world, having been translated into more than 50 languages. The novel chronicles the effects of colonization on the Igbo people. Things Fall Apart is often read in college courses on African Literature and colonization.

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Chinua Achebe is also the author of Home and Exile, a critical text on Joseph Conrad which was published in 2001. In this text, Achebe challenges Conrad’s literary treatment of Africa and Africans. His essay "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," a blistering critique, is considered to be a vital part of the postcolonial critical movement. The essay was first delivered as a lecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in February 1975. Upon responding to counterpoints from other literary critics, Achebe conceded that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness does contain artistic merit, but that the artistic merit cannot completely override the racism and xenophobia apparent within the text.

In June of 2007, Chinua Achebe was honored with the Man Booker International Prize for his career as an author. The prize is awarded every two years for a living author whose work was either published in English or widely translated into English. The award recognizes the body of an author’s work rather than the accomplishments evident within a single publication.

In addition to Things Fall Apart, Achebe has also published the following novels:

  • Anthills of the Savannah (1987)
  • Chike and the River (1966)
  • A Man of the People (1966)
  • Arrow of God (1964)
  • No Longer at Ease (1960)
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