Chinua Achebe is one of the world’s leading novelists, a writer who, according to Nadine Gordimer, “makes you laugh and then catches your breath in horror.” Growing up in the cultural crossroads of colonial Nigeria, he lived and mediated in a world in which people moved between allegiance to traditional Igbo beliefs and values and those introduced by the British, particularly Anglican Christianity under the Church Missionary Society (CMS).
His urge to write developed as an answer to European caricatures of African characters in such novels as Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson or Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Africans needed to tell their own stories, and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, became the first attempt by an African to tell a serious African story. Its remarkable success, compared to the works of the best in Greek tragedy, launched the development of a whole continent’s literature, and resulted in the appointment of Chinua Achebe as the founding editor of Heinemann Publishers’ African Writers Series.
Witnessing the fateful 1966 coup led by the young Igbo soldier, Captain Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, and the horrific backlash against the Igbos, Achebe, then Director of External Broadcasting for Radio Nigeria, began to lose hope in a united Nigeria and subsequently became a lead figure during the Nigerian Civil War in the struggle for Biafran independence. Since the end of the Civil War, Achebe has been an active voice against all forms of indiscipline in Nigeria, teaching, participating in politics, and writing. He is the recipient of several major international awards and recognition. The Times of London named him as “one of the 1,000 Makers of the 20th Century.” This book, intended for youth and the general reader, is the story of his remarkable life.