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JavaScript is disabled for your browser. Some features of this site may not work without it. The representation of women in the works of three South African novelists of the transition Ibinga, Stephane Serge This item appears in the following collections: Doctoral Degrees English [49]. In , 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 , Achebe became a supporter of Biafran independence and acted as ambassador for the people of the new nation. The civil war that took place over the territory, commonly known as the Nigerian Civil 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 , 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 s, and returned to the U. A titled Igbo chieftain himself, [5] Achebe's novels focus on the traditions of Igbo 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 Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory.

He also published a large number of short stories, children's books, and essay collections. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature. Chinua Achebe was born on 16 November Achebe's unabbreviated name, Chinualumogu "May God fight on my behalf" [7] , 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, Zinobia Uzoma, Augustine Ndubisi, and Grace Nwanneka. 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.

Storytelling was a mainstay of the Igbo tradition and an integral part of the community. Achebe's mother and sister Zinobia Uzoma told him many stories as a child, which he repeatedly requested. 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. 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. In , in preparation for independence, Nigeria's first university opened. Achebe was admitted as a Major Scholar in the university's first intake and given a bursary to study medicine. After reading Joyce Cary 's work Mister Johnson about a cheerful Nigerian man who among other things works for an abusive British storeowner, he was so disturbed by the book's portrayal of its Nigerian characters as either savages or buffoons that he decided to become a writer.

One of his classmates announced to the professor that the only enjoyable moment in the book is when Johnson is shot. He abandoned the study of medicine and changed to English, history, and theology. In 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. 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.

After the final examinations at Ibadan in , Achebe was awarded a second-class degree. Rattled by not receiving the highest level, he was uncertain how to proceed after graduation. He returned to his hometown of Ogidi to sort through his options. While he meditated on his possible career paths, Achebe was visited by a friend from the university, who convinced him to apply for an English teaching position at the Merchants of Light school at Oba.

As a teacher he urged his students to read extensively and be original in their work. He taught in Oba for four months, but when an opportunity arose in to work for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service NBS , he left the school and moved to Lagos. The NBS, a radio network started in by the colonial government , [32] assigned Achebe to the Talks Department, preparing scripts for oral delivery.

This helped him master the subtle nuances between written and spoken language, a skill that helped him later to write realistic dialogue. The city of Lagos also made a significant impression on him. A huge conurbation , the city teemed with recent migrants from the rural villages. Achebe revelled in the social and political activity around him and later drew upon his experiences when describing the city in his novel No Longer at Ease.

While in Lagos, Achebe started work on a novel. This was challenging, since very little African fiction had been written in English, although Amos Tutuola 's Palm-Wine Drinkard and Cyprian Ekwensi 's People of the City were notable exceptions. While appreciating Ekwensi's work, Achebe worked hard to develop his own style, even as he pioneered the creation of the Nigerian novel itself. His first trip outside Nigeria was an opportunity to advance his technical production skills, and to solicit feedback on his novel which was later split into two books.

In London, he met a novelist named Gilbert Phelps , to whom he offered the manuscript. Phelps responded with great enthusiasm, asking Achebe if he could show it to his editor and publishers. Achebe declined, insisting that it needed more work. He cut away the second and third sections of the book, leaving only the story of a yam farmer named Okonkwo who lives during the colonization of Nigeria. He added sections, improved various chapters, and restructured the prose. By , he had sculpted it to his liking, and took advantage of an advertisement offering a typing service.

After he waited several months without receiving any communication from the typing service, Achebe began to worry. She did, and angrily demanded to know why the manuscript was lying ignored in the corner of the office. The company quickly sent a typed copy to Achebe. Beattie's intervention was crucial for his ability to continue as a writer. Had the novel been lost, he later said, "I would have been so discouraged that I would probably have given up altogether. In , Achebe sent his novel to the agent recommended by Gilbert Phelps in London. It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential.

Heinemann published 2, hardcover copies of Things Fall Apart on 17 June According to Alan Hill, employed by the publisher at the time, the company did not "touch a word of it" in preparation for release. Three days after publication, The Times Literary Supplement wrote that the book "genuinely succeeds in presenting tribal life from the inside". The Observer called it "an excellent novel", and the literary magazine Time and Tide said that "Mr. Achebe's style is a model for aspirants".

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Initial reception in Nigeria was mixed. When Hill tried to promote the book in West Africa, he was met with scepticism and ridicule. The faculty at the University of Ibadan was amused at the thought of a worthwhile novel being written by an alumnus. Things Fall Apart went on to become one of the most important books in African literature. The book, in recognition of its universality, appears in the Bokklubben World Library collection "proposed by one hundred writers from fifty-four different countries, compiled and organized in by the Norwegian Book Club.

This list endeavors to reflect world literature, with books from all countries, cultures, and time periods. Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has described the work as "the first novel in English which spoke from the interior of the African character, rather than portraying the African as an exotic, as the white man would see him. In the same year Things Fall Apart was published, Achebe was promoted at the NBS and put in charge of the network's eastern region coverage. He moved to Enugu and began to work on his administrative duties. They first conversed when she brought to his attention a pay discrepancy; a friend of hers found that, although they had been hired simultaneously, Christie had been rated lower and offered a lower wage.

Sent to the hospital for an appendectomy soon after, she was pleasantly surprised when Achebe visited her with gifts and magazines. Achebe and Okoli grew closer in the following years, and on 10 September they were married in the Chapel of Resurrection on the campus of the University of Ibadan.

However, as their relationship matured, husband and wife made efforts to adapt to one another. Their first child, a daughter named Chinelo, was born on 11 July They had a son, Ikechukwu, on 3 December , and another boy named Chidi , on 24 May In , while they were still dating, Achebe dedicated to Christie Okoli his second novel, No Longer at Ease , about a civil servant who is embroiled in the corruption of Lagos.

Obi is trapped between the expectations of his family, its clan, his home village, and larger society. He is crushed by these forces like his grandfather before him and finds himself imprisoned for bribery. Having shown his acumen for portraying traditional Igbo culture , Achebe demonstrated in his second novel an ability to depict modern Nigerian life.

Later that year, Achebe was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship for six months of travel, which he called "the first important perk of my writing career"; [59] Achebe set out for a tour of East Africa. One month after Nigeria achieved its independence, he travelled to Kenya , where he was required to complete an immigration form by checking a box indicating his ethnicity: European , Asiatic , Arab , or Other.

Shocked and dismayed at being forced into an "Other" identity, he found the situation "almost funny" and took an extra form as a souvenir. Achebe also found in his travels that Swahili was gaining prominence as a major African language.

Gender In Selected African Novels

Radio programs were broadcast in Swahili, and its use was widespread in the countries he visited. Nevertheless, he also found an "apathy" among the people toward literature written in Swahili. In Northern Rhodesia now called Zambia , Achebe found himself sitting in a whites-only section of a bus to Victoria Falls. Interrogated by the ticket taker as to why he was sitting in the front, he replied, "if you must know I come from Nigeria , and there we sit where we like in the bus.

He travelled to the United States and Brazil. Achebe worried that the vibrant literature of the nation would be lost if left untranslated into a more widely spoken language. One of his first duties was to help create the Voice of Nigeria network. The station broadcast its first transmission on New Year's Day , and worked to maintain an objective perspective during the turbulent era immediately following independence. Achebe became saddened by the evidence of corruption and silencing of political opposition. He met with important literary figures from around the continent and the world, including Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor , Nigerian playwright and poet Wole Soyinka , and US poet-author Langston Hughes.

Among the topics of discussion was an attempt to determine whether the term African literature ought to include work from the diaspora , or solely that writing composed by people living within the continent itself. Achebe indicated that it was not "a very significant question", [70] and that scholars would do well to wait until a body of work were large enough to judge. Writing about the conference in several journals, Achebe hailed it as a milestone for the literature of Africa, and highlighted the importance of community among isolated voices on the continent and beyond.

Impressed, he sent it to Alan Hill at Heinemann, which published it two years later to coincide with its paperback line of books from African writers. Hill indicated this was to remedy a situation where British publishers "regarded West Africa only as a place where you sold books. Bristling against the commentary flooding his home country, Achebe published an essay entitled "Where Angels Fear to Tread" in the December issue of Nigeria Magazine. In it, he distinguished between the hostile critic entirely negative , the amazed critic entirely positive , and the conscious critic who seeks a balance.

He lashed out at those who critiqued African writers from the outside, saying: "no man can understand another whose language he does not speak and 'language' here does not mean simply words, but a man's entire world view. Achebe's third book, Arrow of God , was published in Like its predecessors, it explores the intersections of Igbo tradition and European Christianity.

Set in the village of Umuaro at the start of the twentieth century, the novel tells the story of Ezeulu, a Chief Priest of Ulu. Shocked by the power of British intervention in the area, he orders his son to learn the foreigners' secret. Ezeulu is consumed by the resulting tragedy. The idea for the novel came in , when Achebe heard the story of a Chief Priest being imprisoned by a District Officer. When an acquaintance showed him a series of papers from colonial officers not unlike the fictional Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger referenced at the end of Things Fall Apart , Achebe combined these strands of history and began work on Arrow of God in earnest.

In a letter written to Achebe, the US writer John Updike expressed his surprised admiration for the sudden downfall of Arrow of God ' s protagonist. He praised the author's courage to write "an ending few Western novelists would have contrived". A Man of the People was published in A bleak satire set in an unnamed African state which has just attained independence, the novel follows a teacher named Odili Samalu from the village of Anata who opposes a corrupt Minister of Culture named Nanga for his Parliament seat. Upon reading an advance copy of the novel, Achebe's friend John Pepper Clark declared: "Chinua, I know you are a prophet.

Everything in this book has happened except a military coup! Soon afterward, Nigerian Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu seized control of the northern region of the country as part of a larger coup attempt. Commanders in other areas failed, and the plot was answered by a military crackdown.

A massacre of three thousand people from the eastern region living in the north occurred soon afterwards, and stories of other attacks on Igbo Nigerians began to filter into Lagos. The ending of his novel had brought Achebe to the attention of military personnel, who suspected him of having foreknowledge of the coup. When he received word of the pursuit, he sent his wife who was pregnant and children on a squalid boat through a series of unseen creeks to the Igbo stronghold of Port Harcourt.

They arrived safely, but Christie suffered a miscarriage at the journey's end. Chinua rejoined them soon afterwards in Ogidi. These cities were safe from military incursion because they were in the southeast, part of the region which would later secede. Once the family had resettled in Enugu , Achebe and his friend Christopher Okigbo started a publishing house called Citadel Press, to improve the quality and increase the quantity of literature available to younger readers.

One of its first submissions was a story called How the Dog was Domesticated , which Achebe revised and rewrote, turning it into a complex allegory for the country's political tumult. In May , the southeastern region of Nigeria broke away to form the Republic of Biafra ; in July the Nigerian military attacked to suppress what it considered an unlawful rebellion. Achebe's colleague, Christopher Okigbo , who had become a close friend of the family especially of Achebe's son, young Ikechukwu , volunteered to join the secessionist army while simultaneously working at the press.

Achebe's house was bombed one afternoon; Christie had taken the children to visit her sick mother, so the only victims were his books and papers.

The Achebe family narrowly escaped disaster several times during the war. Five days later, Christopher Okigbo was killed on the war's front line. As the war intensified, the Achebe family was forced to leave Enugu for the Biafran capital of Aba.

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As the turmoil closed in, he continued to write, but most of his creative work during the war took the form of poetry. The shorter format was a consequence of living in a war zone. All this is creating in the context of our struggle. One of his most famous, "Refugee Mother and Child", spoke to the suffering and loss that surrounded him. Dedicated to the promise of Biafra, he accepted a request to serve as foreign ambassador, refusing an invitation from the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University in the US.

10 Essential African Novels

Achebe traveled to many cities in Europe, including London, where he continued his work with the African Writers Series project at Heinemann. During the war, relations between writers in Nigeria and Biafra were strained. Achebe and John Pepper Clark had a tense confrontation in London over their respective support for opposing sides of the conflict.

Achebe demanded that the publisher withdraw the dedication of A Man of the People he had given to Clark. Years later, their friendship healed and the dedication was restored. Speaking in , Achebe said: "I find the Nigerian situation untenable. The Nigerian government, under the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon , was backed by the British government ; the two nations enjoyed a vigorous trade partnership. He framed the conflict in terms of the country's colonial past. The writer in Nigeria, he said, "found that the independence his country was supposed to have won was totally without content The old white master was still in power.

He had got himself a bunch of black stooges to do his dirty work for a commission. Conditions in Biafra worsened as the war continued. In September , the city of Aba fell to the Nigerian military and Achebe once again moved his family, this time to Umuahia , where the Biafran government had also relocated. He was chosen to chair the newly formed National Guidance Committee, charged with the task of drafting principles and ideas for the post-war era. In October of the same year, Achebe joined writers Cyprian Ekwensi and Gabriel Okara for a tour of the United States to raise awareness about the dire situation in Biafra. They visited thirty college campuses and conducted countless interviews. At the end of the tour, he said that "world policy is absolutely ruthless and unfeeling". And why not? After a marriage marked by sexual repression, she craves intimacy.


Set in Northern Nigeria, this bold new narrative tackles romance and eroticism in ways that defy the conservative culture of the North. This beautiful, compact novel is a meditation on female aging and desire, as Dr. Morayo Da Silva, a seventy-four year old Nigerian woman living in San Francisco, narrates aspects of her life, past and present, in delightfully witty and poignant prose. Aging was never so hip, femininity never as powerful. There is a married couple here. And yet, it is a triangular affair. Imagine an equilateral triangle where two sides are represented by each couple and the third by a country.

You see, both couples are also in the midst of a tumultuous love affair with America. America becomes a genderless character whose power crumbles as the financial crisis takes root and the human story progresses. Chinelo Okparanta is the author of Under the Udala Trees. Henry Prize. Maaza Mengiste on her novel "The Shadow King" and turning omnipresent conflict into a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Enjoy strange, diverting work from The Commuter on Mondays, absorbing fiction from Recommended Reading on Wednesdays, and a roundup of our best work of the week on Fridays.

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