How can one be able to document the life and times of the most influential figure in African literature? Although efforts can be made, but compilation of Achebe’s contribution and impact in literature (especially in Africa) can never be documented in a single biography.
Therefore, I write this little about him. Chinua Achebe, was born on the 16 November, 1930. He was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe. He was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor and critic. Achebe’s parents, Isaiah Okafor Achebe, and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunan were converts to the Protestant Church Mission Society (CMS) in Nigeria. He was born in the Igbo village of Ogidi, Anambra.
Storytelling was the mainstay of the Igbo tradition and integral part of the community. In 1936, Achebe entered St Philips’ Central School. Despite his protests, he spent a week in the religious class for young children, but quickly moved to higher class when the school’s chaplain took note of his intelligence.
One teacher described him as a student with the best handwriting in class, and the best reading skills. At the age of twelve, he enrolled as a student at the Central School, Nekede where his elder brother was taught. In 1944, Achebe sat entrance examinations for and was accepted at both the prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha and the even more prestigious Government College, Umuahia. He went for the latter. Once there, Achebe was double-promoted in his first year, completing the first two years’ studies in one year, and spending only four years in secondary school, instead of the standard five.
He was an avid reader and explored the school’s wonderful library. In 1948, in preparation for independence, Nigeria’s first university was opened, known as University College, Ibadan; He was an associate college of University of London. Achebe obtained such high marks in the entrance examination that, he was admitted as a major scholar in the university’s first intake and given a bursary to study medicine.
It was during his studies at Ibadan that he became critical of European literature about Africa. After reading Joyce Cary’s 1939 work, Mister Johnson, about a cheerful Nigerian man who (among other things) works for an abusive British store owner, he was so disturbed by the book’s portrayal of it’s Nigerian characters as either savages or buffoons that he decided to become a writer. He abandoned the study of medicine and changed to English, History and Theology. Because of the switch, he lost his scholarship, and had to pay tuition fees.
Faculty of Arts was strong from inception and include famous writers like Wole Soyinka, John Pepper Clark, Christopher Okigbo etc. Elechi Amadi is another famous author from the university, although in the faculty of science. After the final examination at Ibadan in 1953, Achebe was awarded a second-class degree.
Rattled by not receiving the highest level, he was uncertain how to proceed further. He returned home to Ogidi to sort through his options. As a teacher at Oba Central School, he urged his students to read extensively and be original in their work. After four months as a teacher, he proceeded to work for the Nigerian Broadcasting service in 1954. OEUVRE The complete works of Achebe include, novels: Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease(1960), Arrow of God(1964), A Man of the People (1966), Anthills of the Savannah (1987); short stories: Marriage is a Private Affair (1952), Dead Men’s Path(1953), The Sacrificial egg and other stories (1953), Girls at war and other stories (1973), Civil Peace (1971), African short stories (1985), The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African short stories (1992), The Voter, Vengeful Creditor(2016); poetry: Beware, Soul-Brother and other poems (1971), Don’t let him Die: An Anthology of Memorial poems for Christopher Okigbo(1978), Another Africa (1998), Collected poems (2004), Refugee Mother and child, Vultures (2007); children’s books: Chike and the River (1966), How the Leopard Got His Claws (with John Iroaganachi, 1972), The Flute (1975), The Drum(1978); Essays, criticism, non-fiction and political commentary: The Novelist as Teacher (1965), An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (1975), Morning Yet on Creation Day(1975), The Trouble With Nigeria (1984), Hopes and impediments (1988), Home and Exile (2000), The Education of a British Protected Child(2009), There was a Country: A personal History of Biafra (2012), Africa’s Tarnished Name (2018). FAMILY, HONORS AND DEATH. Shortly after publishing Things Fall Apart, Achebe was promoted at the NBS and put in charge the network’s eastern region coverage.
There, he met Christiana Chinwe Okolie(Christie) who was a student posted to the cooperation. They became close and on the 10th September, 1961, they were married in the Chapel of Resurrection on the campus of the University of Ibadan. T
heir first child, a daughter named Chinelo, was born in 1962, a son Ikechukwu, 1964, another boy, Chidi, 1967. The children grew in strength, discipline and love: four children in all. His notable awards include: Nigerian National order of Merit Award(1979), St Louis Literary Award(1999), Man Booker International Prize (2007), The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize 2010), David and Mariana Fisher University Professor of Africana Studies, Brown University (2009-2013), Charles Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature (1990-2008). Fondly called the father of African Literature, Achebe died after a short illness on 21 March, 2013 in Boston, United States.
Written By Armstrong Zugu