Chinua Achebe: A Bio-Bibliographic Review

By Barksdale-Hall, Roland | Journal of Pan African Studies, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Chinua Achebe: A Bio-Bibliographic Review


Barksdale-Hall, Roland, Journal of Pan African Studies


In the late twentieth century Chinua Achebe arose as one of Nigeria's favored sons. Albert Chinualumogu was born in Ogidi, Nigeria, November 16, 1930, and later adopted Chinua Achebe (Ravenscroft, 1986, p. 5). His upbringing was privileged, his father Isaiah one of the early Christians in his Igbo village. A statesman, Kwame Nkrumah, also known as the "pride of Africa," represented the new African political leader and was an early influence upon Chinua Achebe, as Nkrumah's return from London to the Gold Coast (then a British colony) coincided with unrest throughout the colonial British empire (Burns, 1995, p. 100; Couto, 1995, p. 103).

Achebe's coming-of-age was during a time of great social unrest and his interest in fomenting political change rooted in these times. His career aspiration to be a political writer early was rooted in the nationalist state movement that swept Africa. After years of nationalist protest Achebe witnesses Nigeria's "resumption of independence" in 1960, thereafter serving as the first Director of external Broadcasting (Voice of Nigeria) in the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. During the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70), he was a government aide. (Ravenscroft, 1986, p. 5) A decade later he served as Deputy National President of the People Republican Party.

Prior to the 1970s Achebe's writing, including Things Fall Apart (1958) and No Longer at Ease (1960), focused upon clashes between traditionalists with African values and emergent leadership. The political writer's concerns, mainly with the quality of leadership in modern Ghana, produced Anthills on the Savannah (1988). The work shed light on how the resulting crisis in leadership brought on by ethnic strife, lack of patriotism and a false image deters progress in Nigeria. Beyond exploration of corruption, mediocrity, injustice and a lack of discipline Achebe identifies a "failure of leadership" as the foremost public policy issue in his homeland (Achebe, Trouble with Nigeria, 1983, p. 1). While Achebe's politics have been "concerned with universal human communication across racial and cultural boundaries as a means of fostering respect for all people," his role as a social change agent coupled with vibrant political interests led to his imprisonment (Ravenscroft, 1986, p. 6).

In Achebe's earlier literary works--and No Longer at Ease, Achebe portrayed the conflict between the traditional Igbo way and modern society. In Things Fall Apart a tragic hero, Okonkwo, adapted poorly to societal changes as a result of Europeans' arrival. In Achebe's sequel, No Longer At Ease, Obi Okonkwo, the grandson of the tragic hero in Things Fall Apart again experienced internal conflict. …

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