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About the Author

Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria in 1930, and in a long and distinguished career has published novels, stories, essays and poems.Cited in the Sunday Times as one of the "1,000 Makers of the Twentieth Century" for defining "a modern African literature that was truly African" and thereby making "a major contribution to world literature". Achebe has received more than 30 honorary doctorates from universities around the world. In 2007 he was awarded the Man Booker International Prize. He lives with his wife in Annandale-on-Hudson, where they teach at Bard College. They have four children.


To love Achebe is to love Africa and language. As he is Africa's most prominent novelist and critic, this book's 100-plus pages don't seem ample enough to chronicle the development of such an extraordinary intellectual and literary talent. Furthermore, because of his lyrical prose and accessible ideas, at the end one is left desiring more of Achebe's ruminations (both serious and humorous) on empire, postcolonialism, Western writers (e.g., Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, and Elspeth Huxley) on Africa, universal culture, and expatriation and exile. Reading Achebe is to know Africa in a way that few are able to tell. Achebe weaves anecdotes from his childhood, schooling, and writing life with African proverbs and literary and political theory to contribute beautifully to the "process of `re-storying' peoples who had been knocked silent by the trauma of all kinds of dispossession." His passion and truth are sensuous and contagious, warming one's soul. Highly recommended for all libraries.--Sherri Barnes, Univ. of California Lib., Santa Barbara Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Though it is labeled autobiographical by the publisher, this small book, which originated as three lectures given at Harvard University in December 1998, barely covers the rudiments of Achebe's long and productive life (he is now 70). But the great Nigerian novelist and poet, a master of compression, needs little more than 100 pages to tell the dramatic story of the emergence of a native African literature; in the 1950s, students at English-dominated universities started speaking out against the long European tradition of depicting Africans as "a people of beastly living, without a God, laws, religion," which dates back to Captain John Lok's voyage to West Africa in 1561. "Until the lions produce their own historian," says Achebe, quoting an African proverb of uncertain provenance, "the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter." With characteristic ease and economy, he traces the long African tradition of asserting the worth of the individual, born of Igbo myths that described each community as created separately with its own original ancestor. This notion of individuality, which made the Africans vulnerable to the Atlantic slave traders and to colonial occupation, is the same quality that defined the native African fiction and poetry that emerged in the 1950s, at the time of independence for many African nations. This slim volumeDtold in Achebe's subtle, witty and gracious styleDis one of those small gems of literary and historical analysis that readers will treasure and reread over the years. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

* The value of Achebe's book is ... to insist that literature matters. Financial Times * A moving account of an exceptional life ... Achebe reveals the inner workings of the human conscience through the predicament of Africa and his own intellectual life ... A story of the triumph of the mind, told in the words of one of the century's most gifted writers. -- Henry Louis Gates Jr * A book that anyone concerned with advancing social justice and human dignity should read. Seattle Times * In defining the dignity and vibrancy of African literature, Chinua Achebe defies the stranglehold of colonial, imperialist and cultural dispossession. He brings us into balance with a world of literature and hope that the West with its myth of primacy denies. -- Walter Mosley

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