Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe

CHINUA Achebe born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe; 16 November 1930 21 March 2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet,   professor, and critic. He was best known for his first novel and magnum opus, Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature
Raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in Southeastern Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Service (NBS) and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gamed worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s, his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987), Achebe wrote his novels in English and defended the use of English, a “language of colonisers”, in African literature. In 1975, his lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” featured a famous criticism of Joseph Conrad as “a thoroughgoing racist”; It was later published in The Massachusetts Review amid some controversy.
When the region of Biafra broke away from Nigeria in 1967, Achebe became a supporter of Biafran independence and acted as ambassador for the people of the new nation. The war ravaged the populace, and as starvation and violence took its toll, he appealed to the people of Europe and the Americas for aid. When the Nigerian government retook the region in 1970, he involved himself in political parties but soon resigned due to frustration over the corruption and elitism he witnessed. He lived in the United States for several years in the I 970s, and returned to the U.S. in 1990 after a car accident left him partially disabled.
Achebe’s novels focus on the traditions of lgbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of Western and traditional African values during and after the colonial era. His style relies heavily on the lgbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs and oratory. He also published a number of short stories, children’s books and essay collections. From 2009 until his death, he served as a professor at Brown University in the United States.
Achebes parents, Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi IIoegbunam, were converts to the Protestant Church Mission Society (CMS) in Nigeria. The elder Achebe stopped practising the religion of his ancestors, but he respected its traditions. Achebe’s unabbreviated name, Chinualumogu (“May God fight on my behalf’), was a prayer for divine protection and stability. The Achebe family had five other surviving children, named in a similar fusion Of traditional words relating to their new religion: Frank Okwuofu, John Chukwuemeka Ifeanyichukwu, Zinoba Uzoma, Augustine Nduka, and Grace Nwanneka.
Early life
Chinua was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe in the Igbo village of Ogidi on 16 November 1930. Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi lloegbunam Achebe stood at a crossroads of traditional culture and Christian influence; this made a significant impact on the children, especially Chinualumogu. After the youngest daughter was born, the family moved to Isaiah Achebe’s ancestral town of Ogidi, in what is now the state of Anambra.
Map of Nigeria’s linguistic groups. Achebe’s homeland, the Igbo region (archaically spelt Ibo), lies in the central south.
Storytelling was a mainstay of the Igbo tradition and an integral part of the community. Chinua’s mother and sister Zinobia Uzoma told him many stories as a child, which he repeatedly requested. His education was furthered by the collages his father hung on the walls of their home, as well as almanacs and numerous books including a prose adaptation of Midsummer Night’s Dream (c. 1590) and an Igbo version of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). Chinua also eagerly anticipated traditional village events, like the frequent masquerade ceremonies, which he recreated later in his novels and stories.
In 1936, Achebe entered St Philips Central School. Despite his protests, he spent a week in the religious class for young children, but was quickly moved to a higher class when the school’s chaplain took note of his intelligence. One teacher described him as the student with the best handwriting in class, and the best reading skills. He also attended Sunday school every week and the special evangelical services held monthly, often carrying his father’s bag. A controversy erupted at one such session, when apostates from the new church challenged the catechist about the tenets of Christianity. Achebe later included a scene from this incident in Things Fall Apart.
At the age of twelve, Achebe moved away from his family to the village of Nekede, four kilometres from Owerri. He enrolled as a student at the Central School, where his older brother John taught. In Nekede, Achebe gained an appreciation for Mbari,  a traditional art form which seeks to invoke the gods’ protection through symbolic sacrifices in the form of sculpture and collage. When the time came to change
to secondary school, in l944, Achebe sat entrance examinations for and was accepted at both the prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School in Onitsha and the even more prestigious Government College in Umuahia.
Modelled on the British public school, and funded by the colonial administration, Government College had been established in 1929 to educate Nigeria’s future elite. It had rigorous academic standards and was vigorously elitist, accepting boys purely on the basis of ability. The language of the school was Eng1ish not only to develop proficiency but also to provide a common tongue for pupils from different Nigerian language groups Achebe described this later as being ordered to “put away their different mother tongues and communicate  in the language of their colonisers” The rule was strictly enforced and Achebe recalls that his first punishment was for asking another boy to pass the soap in lgbo. Once there, Achebe was double-promoted in his first year, completing  the first two years’ studies in one, and spending only four years in secondary school, instead of the standard five. Achebe was unsuited to the school’s sports regimen and longed instead to a group of six exceedingly  studious pupils. So intense were their study habits that the headmaster banned the reading of textbooks from five to six o’clock in the afternoon (though other activities and other books were allowed). Achebe started to explore the school’s “wonderful library”. There he discover Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery (1901), the autobiography of  an American former slave; Achebe found it sad, but it showed him another dimension of reality” He also read classic novels, such as Gulliver’s Travels  (1726), David copperfield (1850), and Treasure Island ( 1883) together with tales of colonial derring-do such as H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain (1887) and John Buchan’s Prester John (1910). Achebe later recalled that, as a reader, he ‘took sides with the white characters against the savages” and even developed a dislike for Africans. The white man was good and reasonable and intelligent and courageous. The savages arrayed against him were sinister and stupid or, at the most, cunning. I hated their guts.
Street in Ibadan, 2007
In 1948, in preparation for independence, Nigeria’s first university opened. Known as University College (now the University of Ibadan), it was an associate college of the University of London. Achebe obtained such high marks in the entrance examination that he was admitted as a Major Scholar in the university’s first intake and given a bursary to study medicine. After a year of grueling work, he changed to English, history, and theology. Because he switched his field, however, he lost his scholarship and had I pay tuition fees. He received a government bursary and his family also donated money his older brother Augustine gave up money for a trip home from his job as a civil servant so Chinua could continue his studies. From its inception, the university had a strong English faculty; it includes many famous writers amongst its alumni. These include Nobel Laureate Wole  Soyinka,  novelist Elechi Amadi poet and playwright John Pepper Clark,  and poet Christopher Okigbo. In 950 Achebe wrote a piece for the University Herald entitled Polar undergraduate”, his debut as an author. It used irony and humour to celebrate the intellectual vigour of his classmates. He followed this with other essays and letters about philosophy and freedom in academia, some of which were published in another campus magazine, The Bug. He served as the Herald’s editor during the 195152 school year”.
While at the university, Achebe wrote his first short story “in  a Village Church” which combines details of life in rural Nigeria with Christian institutions and icons, a style which  appears in many of his later works. Other short stories he wrote during his time at Ibadan (including “The Old Order in Conflict with the New and “Dead Men’s Path”) examine conflicts between tradition and modernity, with an eye toward dialogue and understanding on both sides. When a professor named Geoffrey Parrinder arrived at the university to teach comparative religion, Achebe began to exploit the fields of Christian history and African tradition religions.  It was during his studies at Ibadan that Achebe began to become critical of European literature about Africa. He read Irish  novelist Joyce Cary’s  1939 book Mister  Johnson,  about a cheerful Nigerian man who (among other things) works for an abusive British storeowner. Achebe recognised his dislike for the African protagonist as a sign of the authors cultural that the only enjoyable moment in the book is when Johnson ignorance. One of his classmates announced to the professor is shot.
After the final examinations at Ibadan in 1953, Achebe was awarded a second-class degree. Raffled by not receiving the highest level, he was uncertain how to proceed after graduation He returned to his hometown of Ogidi to soft through his options.
Teaching and producing
While he meditated on his possible career paths, Achebe was visited by a friend from the university, who convinced to apply for an English teaching position at the Merchants of Light school at Oba. It was a ramshackle  institution with a crumbing infrastructure and a meager library, the school was built on what the residents called badbush” a section of land thought to be tainted by unfriendly  spirits. Later, in Things Fall Apart, Achebe describes a similar area called the “evil forest”, where the Christian missionaries are given a place to build their church.

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