Chinua Achebe’s first book, Things Fall Apart, was written in the year of 1957, but was not published until 1958 when after a series of rejections from various publishing companies throughout London, the novel was finally picked up by Donald MacRae of Heinemann Publishing. MacRae convinced his fellow executives, who were hesitant at the time, to publish the book proclaiming that it was, “the best novel I’ve read since the war!” After not touching a word of Achebe’s writing during the editing and publishing process, Heinemann published 2,000 copies of the 209 page novel, and made them available to the rest of the world on June 17, 1958. Upon its publication, contrary to the other publishing company’s former hesitation towards the book, Achebe’s novel was well-received by the British Press as well as many other different magazines, critics, and fellow novelists. However; he did in fact receive mixed reviews from that of his native people, the Nigerians, after attempting to further promote the book in South Africa. Despite this, Chinua Achebe’s publication of Things Fall Apart proved to not only be what is considered his magnum opus, but also his start in writing other various novels that dealt with such issues as the cultural aspects behind the African life, being subjected to change, and most of all, religion. Often cited as the birth of African literature, Things Fall Apart is one of the first Africa novels to have been written in English and received a global critical acclaim, and is also now a staple book in schools throughout Africa, and widely read/studied in English-speaking countries throughout the world. This book is the winner of the Margaret Wong Memorial Prize, and has also been recognized within major magazines including Newsweek’s list of Top 100 Books of 2009 in which it was ranked number fourteen overall, as well as Time magazine’s Time Best English-language Novels from 1923-2005.
Well-known Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and literary critic Chinua Achebe (also known as Albert Chinualumogu Achebe) was born on November 16, 1930 in the Igbo town of Ogidi in Southeastern Nigeria to parents, Isaiah Okato Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Achebe as the fifth of six children. Growing up, Achebe was raised as a Christian, which is reflective towards the fact that during this time, the British government’s involvement/control over Nigeria had encouraged his parents to drop their traditional ways of religious practice, and become more Christian-like in their behavior and beliefs. This altercation of religion heavily influenced the Achebe children, especially Chinua, and only left him seemingly curious upon the details/traditions that were a part of the Nigerian faith in which his parents chose to leave behind, and would further reflect upon his choice of writing and interest in his future career.
During his time of education, Chinua attended the governmental college, the University College at Ibadan in Umuahia, Nigeria where he would soon graduate in 1954. During his time of education, Achebe became deeply interested in topics that covered ideas such as world religion and the traditional cultures of Africa; topics he would soon begin to discuss in his writings during his time of employment at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. While working here, Chinua Achebe wrote his first novel, which would later be recognized as his magnum opus, Things Fall Apart, in 1958. After gaining world recognition from this novel of a traditional war hero who is unable to adequately adapt to the ready changes which are being made by the British within their early days of rule, Achebe published two other stories that discussed similar topics as this which were called No Longer at Ease (1960) , Arrow of God (1964), and A Man of the People (1966).
Shortly following the publishing of these books, the region of Biafra attempted to break away from Nigeria, and in support of this, Chinua decided to devote his efforts towards assisting them on their quest for independence and become an ambassador as a form of representation for its people. At this time, Chinua felt it was necessary to take a break from the writing of this famous novels and became a political crusader; spending his time traveling through various countries, writing articles discussing the struggle found within the Biafran people and the suffering of the Igbo children in Nigeria. Years later, after Biafra was once again taken back by the Nigerian government, Achebe retired himself from the political effort and began to focus once again on literature and his personal writing while working at the University of Nigeria. In 1972, Chinua began a new life once again by moving to the United States where he taught as an english professor at universities including the University of Massachusetts and the University of Connecticut. Only four years after moving the United States, Chinua Achebe chose to return the Nigeria and reclaim his position as a professor at the University of Nigeria in 1976. During his time back in Nigeria, Achebe found time to publish another novel, Anthills of the Savanna, in 1987. Not long after its release, Chinua once again moved back to the United States and accepted job positions at an array of other college universities including Stanford and Dartmouth College.
In honor of his 60th birthday, Chinua Achebe returned to Nigeria for a visit, but was unfortunately involved in a car accident that left his permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Upon this incident, Nigerian doctors strongly recommended that Achebe return to the United States in order to receive better, more professional medical care, and Achebe took their advice; accepting a position at Bard College in New York. Since then, Achebe has published another book, Home and Exile (2000), and has also received a number of awards and recognitions in honor of his captivating novels and other literary productions which include being a leading candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honorary fellowship within the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, over twenty honorary doctorates from various universities throughout the world, and the recipient of Nigeria’s highest award for intellectual achievement, the Nigerian National Merit Award. Although originally, his novels were written mainly for a more African-based audience of readers, his novels have touched the hearts and minds of millions throughout the world and his works have thus been translated more than forty different languages for his vast array of fans/readers to enjoy as he continues still today, to further educate and inform his students as well as the rest of the world of the African people, their religious journeys, and the various controversies found within their culture. Today, Chinua Achebe is eighty-one years and is married to his wife, Christie, of whom he has three grown children with.