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Riding on the Crests of the Success of Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe’s International Celebrity
Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart when first published by William Heinemann in 1958 was well received by the British press with positive reviews from critic Walter Allen and novelist Angus Wilson. Three days after publication, the Times Literary Supplement wrote that the book “really succeeds in presenting tribal life from the inside”. The Observer called it “an excellent novel”, and the literary magazine Time and Tide said that “Mr. Achebe’s style is a model for aspirants”.
Initial reception in Nigeria was mixed. Hill’s attempts to promote the book in West Africa were met with skepticism and ridicule. The faculty of the University of Ibadan was amused at the thought of a worthwhile novel being written by an alumnus. Others were more supportive. A review in Black Orpheus magazine said: “The book as a whole creates for the reader such a vivid picture of Ibo life that the plot and characters are little more than symbols representing a way of life irrevocably lost to living memory “.
An instant hit in Nigeria, but lightly reviewed in the US when it was first published (the initial New York Times review was less than 500 words)
No book by an African has been so deeply discussed or so influential. ” There were books by Africans before “Chings Fall Apart”, but this is the one that everyone returns to,” says Kwame Anthony Appiah, an African scholar who wrote. the introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of “Things Fall Apart.”
Things Fall Apart has become one of the most important books in African literature. Its publication is often cited as the birth of modern African literature, and since its publication the book has sold more than 12 million copies in 50 countries. It has been translated into more than 50 languages making its author the most translated African author of all time. It has appeared in numerous lists of the 100 greatest novels of all time, including those published in Norway (Norwegian Book Club), England (Guardian and Observer), America (Radcliffe Publishing Course list of top 100 novels of the 20th century; Time Magazine). ) and Africa (Best African Books of the 20th Century). It remains required reading in schools and universities around the world and is one of the most widely read and influential books ever written. It has generated a wealth of literary criticism in the struggle with Achebe’s unsentimental representations of tradition, religion, manhood and the colonial experience. Its immediate success secured Achebe’s position in Nigeria and the West as a preeminent voice among Africans writing in English.
The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote that for Americans it is “the quintessential novel of Africa”. In fact, it is the foundation of tens of thousands of introductions of university students to the continent, and forms many of our ideas of the place even today.
In 1992 Achebe became the only living author represented in the prestigious Everyman’s Library collection published by Alfred A. Knopf. His 60th birthday was celebrated at the University of Nigeria by “an international Who’s Who in African Literature”. One observer noted, “Nothing like it had ever happened before in African literature anywhere on the continent.” The work that, like Shakespeare’s plays, lends itself to many layers of interpretation that are revealed with each new reading is now anthologized in the Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Many writers of later generations credit this work as having paved the way for their efforts. One of Nigeria’s most celebrated young writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, says she read Things Fall Apart when she was about 8 years old and re-read it periodically. “We found that I liked the same things every time – the familiarity with it. I did not understand that people like me could be in a book,” he explains.
Countless others from Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who once called “Things Fall Apart,” a “major education” for me, to Ha Jin, a Chinese-American novelist, have cited Achebe’s remarkable feat. Achebe himself recalls some letters he received a decade ago from students at a women’s college in South Korea:
“It also surprised me in the sense that I realized that people in different places would be reading from totally different positions, positions that I didn’t think they knew about,” he says.
“They (the students) told me, a lot of them, that this was like their story. And I said to myself, ‘Korea?’ I don’t know Korea. And I don’t know what their history is.” They explained that they were also colonized, by the Japanese. This simple fact of colonization was enough to make someone so far away quickly approach this story.
Achebe later wrote several novels covering more than a century of African history. Although most of them deal specifically with Nigeria, they are also emblematic of the “metaphysical landscape” of Africa, a view of the world and the entire cosmos perceived from a particular position. Achebe, who is 78, has written five novels, including Arrow of God (1964) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987), five books of non-fiction, and several collections of short stories and poems.
Although Achebe encourages writers from the Third World to stay where they are and write about their countries, as a way to help achieve a balance in the narrative, but he himself lived in the United States for the last ten years – a reluctant exile.
Things Fall Apart is being celebrated, according to event organizers to mark 50 years since its first publication, because of the many distinctions it has won, including the following:
o It is the first authentic African story told in the authentic original African style.
o Answer some critical socio-anthropological questions asked by previous non-African writers
o It opened the great door to write about Africa by Africans that led to what it is today, African literature and led the way about thirty years after the book was written, for the country of Achebe, Wole Soyinka, won the following Nobel Prize. from other Africans.
o The book has been translated into more than 50 languages
o Has more than 12 million copies in print.
o The book has more than 50 Awards to its credit and is still counting.
o Especially for the success of this book, the author was counted as one of the hundred most intelligent men of the last century.
o The book clearly represents excellence in quality writing as well as the eternal power of the value of a creative work. He also talks about the power of hard work and its first accompaniment, success.
At the age of 78, Chinua Achebe lives in grace and exile, living in a house built just for him on the campus of Bard College. Achebe came to Bard in 1990, shortly after a car accident in Nigeria left him paralyzed from the waist down.
On March 22, 1990, Achebe was in a car in Lagos when an axle collapsed and the car overturned. His son and the driver suffered minor injuries, but the weight of the vehicle fell on Achebe seriously damaging his spine. He was taken to a Hospital in Buckinghamshire England, and treated. In July, doctors announced that, although he was recovering well, he was paralyzed from the waist down and would have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. While recovering in this hospital, he received a call from Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, who offered him a teaching job and a house built for his needs. Achebe thought he would be at Bard, a small school in a quiet corner of the Hudson River Valley, for only a year or two, but the worsening political situation in Nigeria especially during the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, from 1993 to 1998, with most of Nigeria’s wealth going into the pocket of his leader, and public infrastructure such as hospitals and roads, the withering led him to extend the so stay Achebe’s concern for the state of his country is seen in his refusal to accept one of Nigeria’s highest honors – Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). However, he is waiting for healthy and promising signals for him to return.
Shortly after his release from the hospital, Achebe became the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; a position he has held for over fifteen years. As a longtime professor of languages and literature, he speaks warmly of students who seem to know his work well, but Achebe hasn’t finished a novel in more than 20 years because he doesn’t want to turn to fiction. in the United States, saying. it wouldn’t be “the most important thing for me to do, because there are so many people doing it.” While he is currently working on two or three projects, nothing is close to completion and he admits that “a novel is definitely delayed”. In October 2005, the Financial Times announced that he intended to write a novella for the Canongate Myth Series, a series of short novels in which ancient myths from a myriad of cultures are reimagined and rewritten by contemporary authors. Achebe’s novel is not yet scheduled for publication.
A perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize Achebe won last year In June 2007, the Man Booker International Prize for the achievement of life in fiction. Achebe, often called the father of African literature, has received numerous awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize; the Jock Campbell New Statesman Award; the Margaret Wrong Award; the Nigerian National Trophy in 1961; and the Nigerian National Merit Award, Nigeria’s highest recognition of intellectual achievement, in 1979. Achebe is an Honorary Fellow of the Modem Language Association of America (1975); a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in London (1981); and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1982). He was awarded the prestigious German Pound Trade Peace Prize. Recently, in November of last year, he received the prestigious National Medal of Honor for literature from the National Arts Club of America.
Professor Achebe is also the recipient of forty honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria and the United States, including Dartmouth (1972), Harvard (1996), Brown (1998), Southampton, Guelph (Canada) , Cape Town (2002) and the University of Ife (Nigeria). In 1982, when he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Kent, Professor Robert Gibson said at the ceremony that the Nigerian author “is now revered as a Master by the younger generation of African writers and is at he who he regularly turns to for advice and inspiration.” His impact resonates strongly in literary circles. Novelist Margaret Atwood called him “a magical writer—one of the greatest of the 20th century.” Maya Angelou praised Things Fall Apart as a book where “all readers meet their brothers, sisters, parents and friends and themselves on the Nigerian streets.” Nelson Mandela, recalling his time as a political prisoner, once referred to Achebe as a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell”.
In June 2007, when Achebe was awarded the Man Booker International Prize, the judging panel included the American critic Elaine Showalter, who said that he “lit the way for writers around the world who are looking for new words and forms to the new realities and societies”; and the South African writer Nadine Gordimer, who said that Achebe achieved “what one of his characters brilliantly defines as the writer’s goal: “a new statement” for capturing the complexity of life.”
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