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In Search of the Novel: Ten Novelists

Chinua Achebe

Biography

Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born in 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria. Since the 1950s, Nigeria has witnessed “the flourishing of a new literature.” Thirty years ago Chinua Achebe was one of the founders of this new literature, and over the years many critics have come to consider him the finest of the Nigerian novelists.

Achebe believes that our ancestors created their myths and told their stories for a human purpose and therefore “any good story, any good novel, should have a message...” Unlike some African writers struggling for acceptance among contemporary English-language novelists, Achebe has been able to avoid imitating the trends in English literature. Instead he has embraced the idea at the heart of the African oral tradition: that art is, and always was, at the service of man. Achebe's feel for the African context has influenced his aesthetic of the novel as well as the technical aspects of his work. As Bruce King comments in Introduction to Nigerian Literature: “Achebe was the first Nigerian writer to successfully transmute the conventions of the novel, a European art form, into African literature.” In an Achebe novel, King notes, “European character study is subordinated to the portrayal of communal life; European economy of form is replaced by an aesthetic appropriate to the rhythms of traditional tribal life.”

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