Biography of Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian novelist and poet, considered one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. He is best known for his debut novel Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read novel in modern African literature.

Achebe was raised by evangelical Christian parents in the village Ogidi in Igboland, Nigeria. He received an early education in English, but grew up surrounded by a complex fusion of Igbo traditions and colonial legacy. Achebe studied at the University College, a British-style university, originally intending to study medicine, but eventually changing his major to English, history, and theology.

After graduating, Achebe worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Company in Lagos and later studied at the British Broadcasting Corporation staff school in London. During this time, Achebe was developing work as a writer. Having been taught that Igbo values and culture were inferior to those of Europeans, and finding in Western literature only caricatured stereotypes of Africans, he wanted to conceive of an African literature that would present African characters and society in their full richness and complexity. Starting in the 1950s, he helped to found a new Nigerian literary movement that drew on the oral traditions of Nigeria's indigenous tribes. Although Achebe wrote in English, he attempted to incorporate Igbo vocabulary and narratives. Many of his novels dealt with the social and political problems facing his country, including the difficulties of its postcolonial legacy.

Achebe last lived in the United States, where he held a teaching position at Bard College until 2009, when he joined Brown University as a professor of African Studies. He continued writing throughout his life, producing both fiction and non-fiction, and winning awards such as the Man Booker International Prize in 2007. Achebe died in 2013 of an undisclosed illness while living and teaching in Boston, Massachusetts.


Study Guides on Works by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s novel Arrow of God was published in 1964. This is Achebe’s third novel after his books No Longer At Ease and Things Fall Apart. Together these three books are often referred to as the African Trilogy. This book was published as...

Chinua Achebe penned "Civil Peace" in 1971, depicting through it the effects of the Nigerian Civil War on a man and his family. The War, which began in 1967 with the secession of several Southeastern provinces from Nigeria, led to an intensive...

First published in 1966, A Man of the People offers a critical perspective on the nature of politics, power, and greed. In his novel, author Chinua Achebe assumes an "outside" perspective in order to illustrate the profound effects of governmental...

There Was a Country was written by Chinua Achebe, one of Nigeria’s most famous authors. It was published in 2012, after Achebe had remained in silence on the events of the Nigerian Civil War for over forty years. There Was a Country is an account...