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Chinua Achebe (1930–2013)

Author of Things Fall Apart

51+ Works 28,496 Members 576 Reviews 44 Favorited
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About the Author

Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria. He studied English, history and theology at University College in Ibadan from 1948 to 1953. After receiving a second-class degree, he taught for a while before joining the Nigeria Broadcasting Service in 1954. He was show more working as a broadcaster when he wrote his first two novels, and then quit working to devote himself to writing full time. Unfortunately his literary career was cut short by the Nigerian Civil War. During this time he supported the ill-fated Biafrian cause and served abroad as a diplomat. He and his family narrowly escaped assassination. After the civil war, he abandoned fiction for a period in favor of essays, short stories, and poetry. His works include Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, A Man of the People, Anthills of the Savannah, and There Was a Country. He also wrote four children's books including Chike and the River and How the Leopard Got His Claws. In 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize for his "overall contribution to fiction on the world stage." He also worked as a professor of literature in Nigeria and the United States. He died following a brief illness on March 21, 2013 at the age of 82. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photograph by Stuart C. Shapiro; used by permission


Works by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart (1958) 20,609 copies
No Longer at Ease (1960) 1,511 copies
Arrow of God (1964) 1,278 copies
Anthills of the Savannah (1987) 1,117 copies
A Man of the People (1966) 860 copies
Girls at War (1972) 279 copies
Home and Exile (2001) 216 copies
African Short Stories (1985) — Editor; Contributor — 147 copies
Chike and the River (1966) 143 copies
Africas Tarnished Name (2018) 127 copies
Collected Poems (1969) 97 copies
The Trouble with Nigeria (1984) 63 copies
Beware Soul Brother (1971) 50 copies
OCR GCSE Story Collection (2002) 21 copies
The Drum (1977) 13 copies
Dead Men's Path 4 copies
Už nikdy klid 2 copies
Civil Peace 2 copies
The world of the Ogbanje (1986) 2 copies

Associated Works

The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (1983) — Contributor — 1,132 copies
Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles (2008) — Foreword — 356 copies
Telling Tales (2004) — Contributor — 346 copies
The World's Greatest Short Stories (2006) — Contributor — 270 copies
Under African Skies: Modern African Stories (1997) — Contributor — 92 copies
Rotten English: A Literary Anthology (2007) — Contributor — 75 copies
The Anchor Book of Modern African Stories (2002) — Foreword — 52 copies
One World of Literature (1992) — Contributor — 24 copies
African Literature: an anthology of criticism and theory (2007) — Contributor — 23 copies
Currents in Fiction (1974) — Contributor — 20 copies
AQA Anthology (2002) — Author, some editions — 19 copies
Wonders: Writings and Drawings for the Child in Us All (1980) — Contributor — 18 copies
An African Quilt: 24 Modern African Stories (2012) — Contributor — 17 copies
African Rhapsody: Short Stories of the Contemporary African Experience (1994) — Foreword, some editions — 16 copies
Masters of British Literature, Volume B (2007) — Contributor — 16 copies


1001 (106) 1001 books (110) 20th century (302) 20th century literature (66) Africa (1,905) African (426) African fiction (118) African literature (771) anthology (257) Chinua Achebe (155) classic (249) classics (259) colonialism (509) culture (77) English (69) essays (107) fiction (3,203) historical fiction (353) history (145) Igbo (116) literary fiction (68) literature (630) missionaries (86) Nigeria (1,121) Nigerian (208) Nigerian Literature (266) non-fiction (161) novel (585) own (101) owned (80) politics (97) postcolonial (143) postcolonialism (101) read (343) religion (101) short stories (406) to-read (1,192) unread (119) world literature (92) writing (64)

Common Knowledge

Legal name
Achebe, Albert Chinụalụmọgụ
Date of death
Burial location
Ogidi, Anambra State, Nigeria
Ogidi, Anambra State, Nigeria Protectorate
Place of death
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Places of residence
Ogidi, Nigeria
Nekede, Nigeria
Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria
Oba, Nigeria
Lagos, Nigeria
Enugu, Nigeria (show all 12)
Aba, Biafra
Nsukku, Nigeria
Nneobi, Nigeria
Annandale, New York, USA
Massachusetts, USA
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
University College, Ibadan, Nigeria
University of London
short-story writer
school teacher
Okigbo, Christopher (friend)
Anambra State University of Technology
Bard College
Brown University
Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation
Awards and honors
Man Booker International Prize (2007)
Visiting professorship (University of Massachusetts-Amherst ∙ University of Connecticut ∙ UCLA)
Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (2002)
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Honorary Fellowship.
Nigerian National Merit Award
Campion Award (1996) (show all 7)
Lotus Prize for Literature (1975)
Short biography
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. He was appointed Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and began lecturing widely abroad.

From 1972 to 1976, and again in 1987 to 1988, Mr. Achebe was Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and also for one year at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Cited in the London 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," Chinua Achebe published novels, short stories, essays and children's books. [adapted from Things Fall Apart, c1959, 1994 printing Anchor Books Ed.]

Mr. Achebe received numerous honors from around the world including more than twenty honorary doctorates from universities in England, Scotland, the United States, Canada, and Nigeria.

Latterly Mr. Achebe lived with his wife in Annandale, New York, where they both taught at Bard College. They had four children.



AFRICAN NOVEL CHALLENGE JULY 2023 - ACHEBE / OKRI in 75 Books Challenge for 2023 (August 2023)
Things Fall Apart Chapters 18-25/END in Geeks who love the Classics (February 2022)
Things Fall Apart Chapters 9-17 in Geeks who love the Classics (February 2022)
Things Fall Apart Chapters 1-8 in Geeks who love the Classics (January 2022)
Things Fall Apart Jan-March 2022 Housekeeping Items in Geeks who love the Classics (January 2022)
November 2020: Chinua Achebe in Monthly Author Reads (December 2020)


Although the main theme of this novel is the colonialization of Africa by Great Britain in the late 19th century, it also exposes the folly of hubris, particularly of its protagonist, Okonkwo. The first part of the story centers on Okonkwo's life in his agriculture-centric society, Umuofia, and its kinship ties, superstitions, and rituals. Okonkwo has some reason to be proud: he pulled himself up by the bootstraps, so to speak, not having the same advantages as his Igbo clansmen because his father was considered lazy and contemptible, and he suffered an outcast's death. Okonkwo fear of failure haunts him throughout, and he becomes hard man with an inflexible will and a fiery temper that he blames on his personal god because of the shame his father brought to the family. Although he achieves great success in his fatherland, Okonkwo is ultimately banished for seven years and seeks shelter in his motherland, Mbanta, where he again prospers but still longs to return to his fatherland. Upon his return to Umuofia, he finds much has changed, largely as the result of the British missionaries and administrators who are trying to "civilize" the non-Christians. Achebe explores the impact of colonialism on different aspects of village life and the different categories of villagers. It was refreshing to see colonialism portrayed through the eyes of the colonized, not of the colonizers, as in Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. To be, the real reason things fell apart was a failure of communication between the Western interlopers and the natives.… (more)
bschweiger | 430 other reviews | Feb 4, 2024 |
An engaging story about an African man, his family and tribe. Achebe depicts the brutality of the animistic, pagan patriarchal, honour-shame culture before colonisation. When the colonisers arrive they bring their own form of brutalitiy coloaked beneath British law and order:

It is a story of contrasts: strong vs weak, masculine vs feminine, fortune vs failure, pagan animism vs Christianity, African tribal culture vs Western colonisation.

Achebe depicts the first missionary to the tribe in contradistiction to the colonisers. The Christianity that arrives is bold yet gentle, confident yet wiling to suffer. In contrast to the darkness of pagan animism, the missionaries bring freedom from the fear of evils spirits, curses and capricious gods. They welcome outcasts and adopt twin babies who have been left to die in the jungle. They speak of a Father God full of love in a culture where fathers were harsh and unyielding. The missionaries weren’t perfect (especially the second who arrives later in Achebe’s story), but Achebe makes the point that the Christianity the missionaries brought enriched the lives of the Africans.

The final sentance in the novel reveals what Achebe thinks his work is about:

"The Commissioner went away, taking three or four of the soldiers with him. In the many years in which he had toiled to bring civilization to different parts of Africa he had learned a number of things. One of them was that a District Commissioner should never attend to such undignified details as cutting a hanged man from a tree. Such attention would give the natives a poor opinion of him. In the book which he planned to write he would stress that point. As he walked back to the court he thought about that book. Every day brought him some new material. The story of this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate. There was so much else to include, and one must be firm in cutting out details. He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger."

I found this review helpful: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/830031498
… (more)
1 vote
toby.neal | 430 other reviews | Jan 9, 2024 |
Things Fall Apart is fascinating as it depicts what it felt like living in a clan in the SE part of Nigeria on the cusp of British colonization during the late 19th century. Written from the point of view of of someone living then and there, it personalizes that part of the world in a way I hadn't before experienced in literature.
The plot follows the story of Okonkwo, a man who worked to rescue his family name from his father’s disgraceful failure, becomes successful in his Igbo Chinua Achebe details the clan’s parameters of rules, etiquette, beliefs and hierarchies and shows via internal monologues the difficulty of questioning the rules and going against the flow.
Okonkwo holds fast to his deeply held machismo ideal and derides any man who acts womanish, a trait he sees in his own son. He prides himself on his successes, and plans to become a great leader but he himself breaks a rule that changes the course of his life. Eventually the clan – who had never seen or dealt with white people – are confronted with the influx of Christian missionaries and British political envoys. The intercultural clash brought in by the colonists is psychologically and physically brutal.
… (more)
dcvance | 430 other reviews | Dec 21, 2023 |
Katie lent this book to a friend at GMU 12/2023
KellyObrien | 430 other reviews | Dec 18, 2023 |


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Jan Dicker Translator
Edel Rodriguez Cover designer, Cover artist
Kwame Anthony Appiah Foreword, Introduction
Ian Serraillier Introduction
Biyi Bandele Introduction
Jaap Dicker Translator
Uche Okeke Illustrator
Bruce Onobrakpeya Illustrator
Peter Edwards Cover artist
Gudrun Honke Translator
Charles Keeping Cover artist
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