Chinua Achebe, the 'Mandela of Literature', dies at 82
Six things you may not know about man who became an emblem of modern Africa after writing Things Fall Apart
CHINUA ACHEBE, the Nigerian novelist dubbed the father of African literature and the first post-colonial novelist, has died in Boston, Massachusetts, at the age of 82. Achebe was a "literary Nelson Mandela" says the Daily Telegraph, an emblem for the continent to which he gave voice.
His best-known work remains his first novel, Things Fall Apart. Written while Achebe was a radio producer in Lagos and published in 1958, it charts the impact of the arrival of British colonial rule on a Nigerian village. Here are six things about Chinua Achebe (pictured above with Mandela) you may not know:
Achebe grew up under colonial rule. The arrival of the first missionaries and the reign of Queen Victoria were living memories among the Igbo people in Ogidi, eastern Nigeria, when
the future novelist was born there in 1930. His life and work therefore charted the whole sweep of Empire and African history.
He correctly predicted a Nigerian coup. In his satirical fourth novel, A Man of the People (1966), Achebe wrote of the corruption and irresponsibility of the post-independence political classes and imagined a coup. When this prediction came true later in the same year, his life was in danger and he was forced to flee Lagos because the military assumed he had been in the know.
His house was bombed during the Biafran war. Fortunately nobody was in – his wife Christie had taken the children to see her mother - but the writer's books and papers were destroyed. The war, which broke out following the coup, saw the south-eastern part of Nigeria, where Achebe lived, break away to form the republic of Biafra.
Achebe became a diplomat. An enthusiastic supporter of Biafran independence from Nigeria - in fact, he did not consider himself to be 'Nigerian' - the writer volunteered to go abroad and represent the nascent nation, pleading its case for self-determination around Europe and the US. The war ended in 1970 with defeat for Biafra, which was reabsorbed into Nigeria.
A car accident in 1990 left him paralysed. After the Biafran war, Achebe was a visiting academic in the US but spent most of his time in Africa, until the Lagos crash which left him in need of a wheelchair. Soon afterwards, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York offered him a professorship and the facilities he needed - and Achebe lived most of the rest of his life in the US.
He helped other African writers. Achebe was instrumental in bringing others to world notice as the founding editor of the Heinemann African writers series, overseeing more than 100 titles before enjoying an illustrious academic career. ·