Author Spotlight On Chinua Achebe

Arguably the greatest novelist to ever come from the black continent, Chinualumogu “Chinua” Achebe is a towering figure who needs no introduction whatsoever. With the African Trilogy and his Man Booker International Prize win, Achebe has cemented his name in the soil of time. It’s no surprise that the maiden edition of our “Author Spotlight” starts with the unraveling of an African literary sage of his ilk. However, with all his numerous accomplishments, it is easy to overlook certain significant events which occurred within his lifetime.

Humble Beginning
In 1948, having scored highly in the entrance examinations to the University of Ibadan, Achebe earned a scholarship to study medicine. It was not until he fell deeper in love with literary writings that he later switched to the department of English. This, of course, meant that he would have to forfeit his scholarship and pay his tuition from his own pocket. Bagging a second-class degree, Achebe was so disturbed by missing out on a first-class result that he relocated to his hometown to regroup.

Chinua Achebe

Photo accessed via WW Norton

Magnum Opus Dei – Things Fall Apart

Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, which was published two years before he turned 30 provided the blueprint for African literature. The novel paints the influence of colonialism in Nigeria in a picturesque style garnished with a stint of the Igbo culture. It excavated the realities behind the scene but the truth about the conflict between the Igbo tradition and the Christian doctrines. It is often considered as his best work and most widely read book in modern African literature. The language, the style and the uniqueness of the book made it a household name in many African homes. The universality and relevance of the book are second to none in African literature; it presents echoes from our past, shows us the details of the present anomalies on the canvas and shares in lucid ways what the future holds.

Despite being the book which began a cultural renaissance of enhancing the visibility of Africans in global literature, “Things Fall Apart” was upon publication generally ridiculed in West Africa. The book has sold over 20 million copies around the world and translated into 57 languages making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.


Achebe was a writer of global relevance despite having his roots in the African heritage, his wide span of contemporaries contains literary titans from different corners of the world. The list is not limited to these outstanding writers and poets: Margaret Atwood, Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor, Christopher Okigbo, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Nadine Gordimer, J.P. Clark, Ferdynand Oyono, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Robert Gibson and Okot p’Bitek. His vast influence earned him the worldwide respect of fellow writers at the peak of his career and even after that.


A global celebrity, Achebe, received over 30 honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, South Africa, United States and others.

Achebe twice refused the honor of the Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, citing the chaotic socio-political atmosphere in the country, particularly his home-state as the reason.

Chinua Achebe

Photograph accessed via New York Times

The book, Things Fall Apart, has sold over 20 million copies around the world and translated into 57 languages making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.


Despite his achievements, Achebe never won the Nobel Prize – a phenomenon which has widely been condemned. He has himself been ambivalent in his own feelings about this.

Following a lecture at Amherst in February 1975, during which he accused Joseph Conrad’s much-beloved book “Heart of Darkness” as promoting racist narratives of Africa, Achebe became the object of academic outrage, particularly from the white academia. In fact, immediately after his speech, it has been reported that a professor walked right up to him, screaming: How dare you! Achebe would later stand by his criticism till his death.


At age 60, Chinua Achebe was involved in a ghastly motor accident which left him partially disabled for the rest of his life. The literary icon passed on during his time in the United States on March 21, 2013, at the age of 82.

Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka

Photograph accessed via Opinion Nigeria

Literary Works

Before we conclude the discourse about the father of African literature, let’s have a look at some of his works.


  • Things Fall Apart (1958)
  • No Longer at Ease (1960)
  • Arrow of God (1964)
  • A Man of the People (1966)
  • Anthills of the Savannah (1987)

Short Stories

  • Marriage is a Private Affair (1952)
  • Dead Men’s Path (1953)
  • The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories (1953)
  • The Voter (1965)
  • Civil Peace (1971)
  • Girls at War and Other Stories (including “Vengeful Creditor”) (1973)
  • African Short Stories (1985)
  • The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories (1992)


  • Beware, Soul-Brother, and Other Poems (1971)
  • Don’t Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo (1978)
  • Another Africa (1998)
  • Collected Poems (2005)
  • Refugee Mother and Child
  • Vultures

Essays, criticism, nonfiction and political commentary

  • The Novelist as Teacher (1965)
  • An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (1975)
  • Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975)
  • The Trouble With Nigeria (1984)
  • Hopes and Impediments (1988)
  • Home and Exile (2000)
  • The Education of a British-Protected Child (2009)
  • There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra (2012)

Children’s Books

  • Chike and the River (1966)
  • How the Leopard Got His Claws (1972)
  • The Flute (1975)
  • The Drum (1978)

If you are anything like us, then you must have read his complete works twice. Alright, thrice. Fine, maybe more than four times. Who does not love Achebe? His fine writing and extraordinary use of oral tradition in passing across his message made him an unforgettable sage in the parlance of African writing.

This is a successful attempt to avoid writing an epistle about Achebe but to share a summary of his life and what his works mean to us.


What inspires you about Achebe? You can share with us in the comment section below.


Kanyinsola Olorunnisola

Kanyinsola Olorunnisola

Managing Editor


Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is a poet, essayist and writer of fiction. He is the Managing Editor of Kreative Diadem. He writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. His writings border on the themes of unease, racism, colonialism, terror and all things familiar to the black folk. He describes his art as that specialized literary alchemy which aims to extract beauty from the frail commonplaceness of words.
His experimental works have appeared or are forthcoming on such platforms as Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, Bombay Review, Lunaris Review, African Writer,, Authorpedia, Kreative Diadem, Parousia Magazine and Sampad International Journal. He was the 2016 recipient of the Albert Jungers Poetry Prize.



Do you want a sneak peek into our latest issue?

Let’s send a copy to your mail right away!

“I am a realist. I write fiction that is as close to ‘life’ as possible” – Interview with Arinze Ifeakandu

“I am a realist. I write fiction that is as close to ‘life’ as possible” – Interview with Arinze Ifeakandu


“I am a realist. I write fiction that is as close to ‘life’ as possible” – Interview with Arinze Ifeakandu

Ifeakandu is one of the five writers shortlisted for the 2017 Caine Prize for African writing, arguably the biggest competitive literary award on the continent. With his story, “God’s Children Are Little Broken Things”, he became the second-youngest person ever to achieve such a feat at age 22.

He is an alumnus of the 2013 Farafina Creative Trust Workshop. Prolific in his diversity, he was also a 2015 BN Poetry Award finalist. In this talk, he speaks to us about his background, literary style and influences.

KD: Who is Arinze Ifeakandu?
Arinze: He is a guy who over-thinks things, so much that his best friend calls him Mr Sensitive, just to shut him up.
KD: Why do you write, and what audience do you put in mind?
Arinze: I write because I really enjoy doing it. It gives me great pleasure to write. I do not have an audience in mind when I write.

Arinze Ifeakandu

Photo accessed via Facebook

KD: What impact has being on the CainePrize Award shortlist brought to you (and your writing)?
Arinze: It has exposed my story to a new audience, a ‘home’ audience. The story was published by the US-based A Public Space magazine, and so it pleases me that Africans, Nigerians, are getting to read it now.
KD: When did you start writing and how?
Arinze: My entanglement with writing began very early in my life. My siblings and childhood friends used to enjoy the stories I told when we were all young. When I learnt how to read I became such an obsessed  reader, infringing on people’s privacy by reading letters and texts that were not meant for me, and so it seemed only natural that I soon began writing the stories I used to tell.
KD: What informed your choice of the story you submitted?
Arinze: When I was writing the story—I wrote it in 2014 and it won me an Emerging Writer fellowship in 2015—I did not have the Caine Prize in mind. I did not have any prize in mind, for that matter. So it was not written to be ‘submitted’. I cannot say so much that I chose the story as much as that the story followed me wherever I went, and I had no choice but to write it.

You can follow this link to view the full list of the nominees and also get an access to the published story that got Arinze shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize Award.

“I am a realist. I write fiction that is as close to ‘life’ as possible, although the matter of what is ‘real’ remains a question.”

KD: Mentors/influences/writers you admire
Arinze: I adore Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is everything that I believe a writer should be; the clarity with which she delivers deep and often complex thought, that is phenomenal. Buchi Emecheta, I love, because of The Joys of Motherhood, the first book that awakened something in me that has yet to go to sleep.
KD: How would you describe your writing style?
Arinze: I am a realist. I write fiction that is as close to ‘life’ as possible, although the matter of what is ‘real’ remains a question.

Arinze Ifekandu, one of the five writers shortlisted for the 2017 Caine Prize for African writing.

Photograph accessed via Facebook

KD: Reclaiming one’s own body is a recurrent motif in the short story God’s Children are Little Broken Things. Could you briefly comment on this?
Arinze: Ah! I’m not sure I want to become a chief critic of my own story. There are certain bodies in this world, in my country Nigeria, that have been designated unholy, unacceptable. But was it not God himself who reprimanded Peter: How can you call what I created unclean? LGBT people in this country are faced with so much violence in this country, and even though the story does not deal directly with violence, we sense the struggle the major characters go through in situating themselves properly, in loving without shame or fear, in a space that is hostile towards them.
KD: What is the most attractive thing about fiction that makes you keep writing?
Arinze: The fact that I can be lost for hours and hours and forget about the morbid exercise of living.


KD: Thanks for your time. Best wishes.
Arinze: Thank you.


Do you want a sneak peek into our latest issue?

Let’s send a copy to your mail right away!

Pin It on Pinterest