Today, 85 years ago, an African literary giant Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, was born. Popularly known by his abbreviated name, Chinua, Achebe was born on 16 November 1930 in the Igbo village of Ogidi and he was to become a celebrated novelist, poet, professor and critic.
His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) is widely considered his magnum opus, and is the most widely read book in modern African literature.
Achebe received numerous accolades and has been called “the father of modern African writing”. We celebrate the birth of one Africa’s foremost novelist with 10 quotes from his selected works.
1. “If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.” The Paris Review, 1994.
2. “When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.” Quoted in Arrow of God, 1964.
3. “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.”
4. “My weapon is literature.”
5. “We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.” Quoted inThe Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays, 2009.
6. “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” Quoted in Things Fall Apart, 1958.
7. “Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.”
8. “While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” Quoted in Anthills of the Savannah, 1987.
9. “My position is that the Nobel Prize is important. But it is a European prize. It’s not an African prize … Literature is not a heavyweight championship. Nigerians may think, you know, this man has been knocked out. It’s nothing to do with that.” Quoted in Ezenwa-Ohaeto, pp. 263–264.
10. “Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform.” There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, 2012.