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Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria in 1930. He was raised in the large village of Ogidi, one of the first centers of Anglican missionary work in Eastern Nigeria, and was a graduate of University College, Ibadan. His early career in radio ended abruptly in 1966, when he left his post as Director of External Broadcasting in Nigeria during the national upheaval that led to the Biafran War. Achebe joined the Biafran Ministry of Information and represented Biafra on various diplomatic and fund-raising missions. He was appointed Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and began lecturing widely abroad. For over fifteen years, he was the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. He was Professor at the David and Marianna Fisher University and Professor of Africana studies at Brown University. Chinua Achebe wrote over twenty books - novels, short stories, essays and collections of poetry - and received numerous honours from around the world, including the Honourary Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as honourary doctorates from more than thirty colleges and universities. He was also the recipient of Nigeria's highest award for intellectual achievement, the Nigerian National Merit Award. In 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. He died in 2013.
Peter Frances James offers a superb narration of Nigerian novelist Achebe's deceptively simple 1959 masterpiece. In direct, almost fable-like prose, it depicts the rise and fall of Okonkwo, a Nigerian whose sense of manliness is more akin to that of his warrior ancestors than to that of his fellow clansmen who have converted to Christianity and are appeasing the British administrators who infiltrate their village. The tough, proud, hardworking Okonkwo is at once a quintessential old-order Nigerian and a universal character in whom sons of all races have identified the figure of their father. Achebe creates a many-sided picture of village life and a sympathetic hero. A good recording of this novel has been long overdue, and the unhurried grace and quiet dignity of James's narration make it essential for every collection.‘Peter Josyph, New York
'The first novel in English which spoke from the interior of an African character, rather than portraying the African as exotic, as the white man would see him' Wole Soyinka "The Founding Father of the African novel in English" - The Guardian
Published in 1958, Achebe's seminal work heralds the revolution that preceded Nigerian independence in 1960. Designed to teach students about the rich Igbo heritage, it tells the heartbreaking tale of Okonkwo's single-minded rise to success among his people and the surrounding villages, followed by a heinous act, banishment, and descent into total failure. James narrates this story of the European colonization of Africa, the encroachment of Christianity, and the disintegration of traditional cultures with appropriate gravitas and measured pacing, bringing out all of the nuances of the text. Students can listen to Achebe read a part of the story (http://ow.ly/kwRJe) and then watch a portion of a production that includes the same text (http://ow.ly/kwS2a) for comparison. Round out the unit with PBS journalist Jeffrey Brown's interview with Achebe on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart (http://ow.ly/kwSpg). (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.