Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Tijan M. Sallah
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Born in Ogidi, southeastern Nigeria on November 16, 1930, Chinua Achebe is one of the world¿s leading novelists, a writer who, according to Nadine Gordimer, ¿makes you laugh and then catches your breath in horror.¿ Growing up in the cultural crossroads of colonial Nigeria, he lived and mediated in a world in which people moved between allegiance to traditional Igbo beliefs and values and those introduced by the British, particularly Anglican Christianity under the Church Missionary Society (CMS).
Achebe¿s parents were first generation converts and became Anglican church people, but his maternal uncle, Udo Osinyi was a die-hard believer in Igbo religion who resisted conversion. Achebe was the fifth child in a family of four boys and two girls, and never knew his brothers, who were much older, until much later, and who were working elsewhere. He grew up with his younger sister, Grace, under the frequent supervision of his older sister, Zinobia, who was a great storyteller.
Achebe completed primary school against the tense background of World War II, and the divided loyalties under British colonialism, and transferred to Government College, Umuahia, an elite secondary school, where he cultivated the habit of reading Western novels. He then moved on to University College, Ibadan, on scholarship as a star student. His urge to write developed as an answer to European caricatures of African characters in such novels as Joyce Cary¿s Mister Johnson or Joseph Conrad¿s Heart of Darkness. Africans needed to tell their own stories, and Achebe¿s Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, became the first attempt by an African to tell a serious African story. Its remarkable success, compared to the works of the best in Greek tragedy, launched the development of a whole continent¿s literature, and resulted in the appointment of Chinua Achebe as the founding editor of Heinemann Publishers¿ African Writers Series.
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