10 Key Dates In Chinua Achebe’s Life

Lovers of literature and the world at large are celebrating one of Africa’s greatest storytellers, Chinua Achebe, who would have been 87 on November 16.

While the literary Icon passed in 2013, his works and the impact he had on African storytelling still linger.

Also in honour of him today, technology giant – Google, changed its logo to a doodle, portraying him.

Here are some memorable dates in his life.

1930: He was born and named Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe

1936: Achebe entered St Philips’ Central School and was immediately promoted to a higher class when the school’s chaplain took note of his intelligence.

1944: Achebe sat for entrance examinations and was accepted at both the prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School in Onitsha and the even more prestigious Government Collegein Umuahia.

1948: Owing to his brilliance, Achebe was admitted as a Major Scholar in the first intake of the then, University College, now University of Ibadan and given a bursary to study medicine.

It was during his studies at Ibadan that Achebe began to become critical of European literature about Africa.

Subsequently, he abandoned the study of medicine and changed to English, history, and theology. However, because he switched his field, he lost the scholarship and had to pay tuition fees.

1950: 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.

1956: Achebe was selected at the Staff School run by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). His first trip outside Nigeria was an opportunity to advance his technical production skills, and to solicit feedback on his novel.

1958: His first and one of his most popular novels, “Things Fall Apart” was published. In the same year, he met his wife, Christiana Chinwe, whom he married in 1961.

1987: His last was “Anthills of Savannah” was published.

2007: He won the Man Booker International Prize.

2013: He passed on, after gaining worldwide recognition for his works which also included: No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987).

Achebe was also involved in politics in the era when the region of Biafra broke away from Nigeria. He became a supporter of Biafran independence and acted as an ambassador for the people of the new nation.

Channels Book Club Visits 15th Lagos Book And Art Festival

This edition of Channels Book Club featured the 15th Lagos Art and Book Festival, which was staged at Freedom Park, Broad Street, in Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence.

Activities such as conferences, workshops, seminars, performances, music and choreography kept the visitors engaged all through the three-day event, which attracted many individuals from across the country and beyond.

The programme was themed ‘Nigeria’s Centenary, The Lagos Narrative’ and organised in memory of the late Chinua Achebe.

ICPC Boss To Sanitize Nigeria’s Higher Institutions

The Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has promised to sanitize the Nation’s educational Institutions, and for a start, by bringing to book 67 illegal Universities who have been operating in the Country.

The Chairman of the ICPC, Ekpo Nta made the promise in Calabar while presenting a paper on Corruption and National Security at the 22nd Annual International Conference on African Literature and English Language (ICALEL) at the University of Calabar, the Cross River State Capital.

The Chairman started his presentation full of eulogies for African literature by saying that, African literature had in the past been in the forefront of the fight against colonialism. Today more than ever, it must continue to throw its weight in the war against corruption and help democratic institutions develop.

Addressing students, Academic and non-Academic staff drawn from different universities in the country on Corruption and National Security, the ICPC boss said, Nigerians have continued to live in fear due to the worsening security situation in the country, a situation he blamed on corruption from various sectors of the economy.

He explained that, in shaping the consciousness of Nigerians, the commission is committed more than ever to promote ICATEL, with emphasis on the role literature and writers have played in enriching the fight against corruption.

Corruption, he added is responsible for underdevelopment, unemployment and the security threat which is ravaging some parts of the country, leading to the loss of lives.

The ICPC chairman said the commission has established an Anti –Corruption Monitoring Unit (ACTUS) in Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including Nigerian Universities to monitor corrupt practices, which might come in form of sexual harassment from lecturers, duplication of results, and unnecessary delay of graduates’ transcript with the support of the National Universities Commission.

The Commission believes that Corruption should be discouraged from primary schools, a step which the Ministry has taken by including this aspect into schools curriculum.

ICPC Prolific writer, Elechi Amadi, whose works were adjudged to have dealt sorely with the issue of corruption in the country, encouraged Nigerian ICATEL Students on the need to generate more ideas focused on dealing with the issues of corruption.

China Achebe’s novel No Longer At Ease (1960), Anthills of the Savannah (1987) and Wale Okediran’s Tenants of the House (2009) among others were the focal points used at this year’s conference which gives an insight into the evolution of corruption in the society.

Akinosho Highlights Achebe’s Contributions To African Literature

The Secretary General of the Committee For Relevant Art (CORA), Toyin Akinosho on Tuesday recounted the contributions of the late Chinua Achebe to the evolution of African literature.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Akinosho said the late author used his writings to incorporate Africans into the global discuss.

“That phrase that we’ve all heard about ‘telling our own stories’ is essentially an ‘Achebian’ phrase. We all borrowed it from him,” he said.

Watch the video below for the complete interview with Mr Akinosho.

Amaechi urge writers to write on solutions to Nigeria’s problems

The governor of Rivers State Governor, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has called on literary writers across the country to channel their ideas toward issues that would provide solutions to the myriad of problems facing the country.

Mr Amaechi made this known while declaring open, the 5th Garden City Literary festival in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.

The theme of this year’s literary festival is: Women in literature.

According to the governor, “the nation is still seeking ways to address issues of poverty, poor educational system and the challenge of managing the nation’s resources to improve the living standard of the people.”

Amaechi observed that writers owe their readers the best literary satisfaction as he advised them to strive to match their writing style with their field of study.

The governor identified that there is one problem with Nigerian writers, “especially those of them who didn’t study literature. They have to impress their readers on style and to convince the literary writers that they are qualified to dwell in the field of literature” he stated.

“Take Chinua Achebe as a writer for instance; what I love in Chinua Achebe’s writing is the book ‘A Man of the People’. In that book, you will see the replication of the Nigerian Political life after independence.”

Chinese Mo Yan beats Achebe, others to clinch Nobel Prize for literature

Chinese author Mo Yan has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for literature, the Swedish Academy said today in Stockholm.

The Swedish Academy praised his work which “with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”.

The 57-year-old is the 109th recipient of the prestigious prize, which was given last year to Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer.

Presented by the Nobel Foundation, the award, only given to living writers, is worth 8 million krona (£741,000).

Nigeria’s foremost writer, Chinua Achene has been in contention for the most coveted prize in the literary world but has failed to pick the award since his first book hit the book shelves.

Other writers including Haruki Murakami, William Trevor, Milan Kundera, Amos Oz, Philip Roth, Alice Munro, Thomas Pynchon, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Bob Dylan were also in the race to pick the prize.

Chinua Achebe’s Biafran memoir ‘There Was a Country’ goes on sale in the UK

Renowned Nigerian author Prof Chinua Achebe has published his long-awaited memoir, ‘There Was a Country’ in the United Kingdom today.

The much anticipated work is about the brutal three-year Biafran war, in which he acted as roving cultural ambassador for the Biafran Republic when the south-eastern area tried to split from Nigeria in 1967.

Prof Achebe has remained silent about his war experience for more than 40 years.

The memoir is published in the UK on Thursday and is due to be released in Nigeria shortly and in the US on 11 October.

As one of Africa’s best known authors, Mr Achebe’s debut 1958 novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ has sold more than 10 million copies and published in numerous languages all over the world.

Birth pangs’

The prize-winning 81-year-old author and academic has written more than 20 works – some fiercely critical of politicians and a failure of leadership in Nigeria.

But he has never addressed the atrocities of the Biafran war, in which he was caught up with his young family – except occasionally in his poetry.

More than one million people died during the conflict in fighting and from famine – photographs of starving children from Biafra became synonymous in the media with the conflict.

“There Was a Country is a distillation of vivid observation and considered research and reflection,” Mr Achebe’s UK publisher Allen Lane says.

“It relates Nigeria’s birth pangs in the context of Achebe’s own development as a man and a writer, and examines the role of the artist in times of war.”

Prof Achebe has lived in the US since he suffered a car accident in 1990, which left him paralysed and in a wheelchair.

The memoir is published in the UK on Thursday and is due to be released in Nigeria shortly and in the US on 11 October, AFP news agency reports.

Things Fall Apart named among, 50 Most Influential Books of the last 50 years

Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ has being named one of the ‘50 Most Influential Books of the last 50 years’.

A group called ‘SuperScholar’ made this selection, and named Achebe’s first novel amongst the 50 most influential books by other world acclaimed writers.

Things Fall Apart, which focuses on the clash of colonialism, Christianity, and native African culture, is famed as one of the most widely read fiction of African literature.

It was 1958 and has been translated to more than 60 languages across the world.

Other novels on the list include Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’, Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’, Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22′, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.

Achebe, who is now a Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, Rhode Island in the US, is author of five other novels, several volumes of poetry and essay collections.

His latest book, ‘There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra’, is expected to be published in September, 2012.

According to the editors at SuperScholar, in compiling the books on this list, the editors tried to provide a window into the culture of the last 50 years.

“Ideally, if you read every book on this list, you will know how we got to where we are today. Not all the books on this list are “great.” The criterion for inclusion was not greatness but INFLUENCE. All the books on this list have been enormously influential.”

The books we chose required some hard choices. Because influence tends to be measured in years rather than months, it’s much easier to put older books (published in the 60s and 70s) on such a list than more recent books (published in the last decade).

Older books have had more time to prove themselves. Selecting the more recent books required more guesswork, betting on which would prove influential in the long run.

We also tried to keep a balance between books that everyone buys and hardly anyone reads versus books that, though not widely bought and read, are deeply transformative.

The Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa never sold as many records as some of the “one-hit wonders,” but their music has transformed the industry. Influence and popularity sometimes don’t go together. We’ve tried to reflect this in our list.

Below are the 50 famed books:

1. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), as the most widely read book in contemporary African literature, focuses on the clash of colonialism, Christianity, and native African culture.

2. Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) reinvented the science fiction genre, making it at once sociologically incisive as well as funny.

3. Robert Atkins’ Dr Atkins’s New Diet Revolution (1992, last edition 2002) launched the low-carbohydrate diet revolution, variants of which continue to be seen in numerous other diet programs.

4. Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (2006), drawing on his background as an evolutionary theorist to elevate science at the expense of religion, propelled the neo-atheist movement.

5. Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) set the tone for the questioning of political correctness and the reassertion of a “canon” of Western civilization.

6. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), an entertaining thriller, has been enormously influential in getting people to think that Jesus is not who Christians say he is and that Christianity is all a conspiracy.

7. Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970) transformed the way we view native Americans as they lost their land, lives, and dignity to expanding white social and military pressures.

8. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) more than any other book helped launch the environmental movement.

9. Noam Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures (1957), laying out his ideas of transformational grammar, revolutionized the field of linguistics and at the same time dethroned behaviorism in psychology.

10. Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People (1989) set the standard for books on leadership and effectiveness in business.

11. Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box (1996), though roundly rejected by the scientific community, epitomizes the challenge of so-called intelligent design to evolutionary theory and has spawned an enormous literature, both pro and con.

12. Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997), in employing evolutionary determinism as a lens for understanding human history, reignited grand history making in the spirit Spengler and Toynbee.

13. Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1980) examines, in the context of a mystery at a medieval monastery, the key themes of premodernity, modernity and postmodernity.

14. Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (1962) provides a particularly effective answer to totalitarian attempts to crush the human spirit, showing how humanity can overcome horror and futility through finding meaning and purpose.

15. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), in giving expression to the discontent women felt in being confined to the role of homemaker, helped galvanize the women’s movement.

16. Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (1962) argued that capitalism constitutes a necessary condition for political liberties and thus paved the way for the conservative economics of the Reagan years.

17. Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (1995) showed clearly how skills in dealing with and reading emotions can be even more important than the cognitive skills that are usually cited as the official reason for career advancement.

18. Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man (1971), in relating her experiences with chimpanzees in the wild, underscored the deep connection between humans and the rest of the animal world.

19. John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992), in highlighting and elevating the differences between men and women in their relationships, challenged the contention that gender differences are socially constructed.

20. Alex Haley’s Roots (1976), by personalizing the tragic history of American slavery through the story of Kunta Kinte, provided a poignant challenge to racism in America.

21. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988, updated and expanded 1998), by one of the age’s great physicists, attempts to answer the big questions of existence, not least how the universe got here.

22. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961) etched into public consciousness a deep skepticism of bureaucracies, which in the book are portrayed as self-serving and soul-destroying.

23. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, last edition 1978) changed our view of science from a fully rational enterprise to one fraught with bias and irrational elements.

24. Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981) transformed people’s view of God, exonerating God of evil by making him less than all-powerful.

25. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) served as prelude to the civil rights advances of the 1960s by portraying race relations from a fresh vantage—the vantage of an innocent child untainted by surrounding racism and bigotry.

26. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), as an example magical realism, epitomizes the renaissance in Latin American literature.

27. Alasdair McIntyre’s After Virtue (1981, last edition 2007) is one of the 20th century’s most important works of moral philosophy, critiquing the rationalism and irrationalism that pervade modern moral discourse.

28. Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved (1987) provides a profound and moving reflection on the impact of American slavery.

29. Abdul Rahman Munif’s Cities of Salt (1984-89) is a quintet of novels in Arabic focusing on the psychological, sociological, and economic impact on the Middle East of oil.

30. Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), attacking car industry’s lax safety standards, not only improved the safety of cars but also mainstreamed consumer protection (we take such protections for granted now).

31. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks’ The 9/11 Commission Report (2004), though not the final statement on the 9/11 disaster, encapsulated the broader threat of terrorism in the new millennium.

32. Roger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind (1988) provides a sweeping view of 20th century’s scientific advances while at the same time challenging the reductionism prevalent among many scientists.

33. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957) has become a key inspiration for conservative economics in challenging entitlements and promoting unimpeded markets.

34. John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971, last edition 1999) is the most significant effort to date to resolve the problem of distributive justice and has formed the backdrop for public policy debates.

35. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series (seven volumes, 1997-2007), loved by children, panned by many literary critics, has nonetheless set the standard for contemporary children’s literature.

36. Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (1988), which led Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a death edict (fatwa) against Rushdie, underscored the clash between Islamic fundamentalism and Western civilization.

37. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (1980), based on his wildly popular PBS series by the same name, inspired widespread interest in science while promoting the idea that nothing beyond the cosmos exists.

38. Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation (2001) details the massive impact that the U.S. fast food industry has had on people’s diets not just in the U.S. but also across the globe.

39. Amartya Sen’s Resources, Values and Development (1984, last edition 1997) develops an approach to economics that, instead of focusing on utility maximization, attempts to alleviate human suffering by redressing the poverty that results from economic mismanagement.

40. B. F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) attacked free will and moral autonomy in an effort to justify the use of scientific (behavioral) methods in improving society.

41. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (in three volumes, 1974-78) relentlessly exposed the totalitarian oppression of the former Soviet Union and, more than any other book, was responsible for its government’s subsequent dissolution.

42. Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capitalism (2000) argues that the absence of legal infrastructure, especially as it relates to property, is the key reason that capitalism fails when it does fail.

43. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946, last edition 2004) sold 50 million copies and revolutionized how Americans raise their children.

4. Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan (2007, last edition 2010) provides the most trenchant critique to date of the financial and monetary backdrop to the current economic crisis.

45. Mao Tse-tung’s The Little Red Book, aka Quotations From Chairman Mao(1966) was required reading throughout China and epitomized his political and social philosophy.

46. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life (2002), though addressed to the American evangelical culture, has crossed boundaries and even led to Warren giving the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration.

47. James D. Watson’s The Double Helix (1969), in presenting a personal account of his discovery, with Francis Crick, of the structure of DNA, not only recounted one of the 20th century’s greatest scientific discoveries but also showed how science, as a human enterprise, really works.

48. E. O. Wilson’s Sociobiology (1975) challenged the idea that cultural evolution can be decoupled from biological evolution, thus engendering the fields of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics.

49. Malcolm X’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), written posthumously by Alex Haley from interviews, portrays a complex activist for human rights at a complex time in American history.

50. Muhammad Yunus’ Banker to the Poor (1999, last edition 2007) lays out how “micro-lending” made it possible to provide credit to the poor, thereby offering a viable way to significantly diminish world poverty.