Chinua Albert Achebe, of blessed memory, was a Nigerian prolific author best known for his inventive style of writing and simplicity of expressions.
Famed as one of the finest writers Nigeria has ever produced, Achebe lived and died an international hero and a literary giant, who left behind unforgettable legacies and footprints in the sands of time, especially in African literature.
Prior to his death, iconic Nigerian writer Achebe wrote forty-four (44) books, with Things Fall Apart (originally published in 1958) being the first and most popular of them all.
Things Fall Apart, which tells the story of a traditional warrior hero (Ezeulu) who was unable to adapt to changing conditions in the early days of British rule, was composed while Achebe was working for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.
Dubbed the ‘father of modern African writing” and “Africa’s greatest storyteller, other works by Chinua Albert Achebe include:
- No Longer at Ease (1960)
- Arrow of God (1964)
- A Man of the People (1966)
- Anthills of the Savannah (1987)
- 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 Carcanet Press (2005)
- Refugee Mother And Child
- Marriage Is A Private Affair (1952)
- Dead Men’s Path (1953)
- The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories (1953)
- Civil Peace (1971)
- Girls at War and Other Stories (including “Vengeful Creditor”) (1973)
- African Short Stories (editor, with C. L. Innes) (1985)
- The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories (editor, with C. L. Innes) (1992)
- The Voter
- Chike and the River (1966)
- How the Leopard Got His Claws (with John Iroaganachi) (1972)
- The Flute (1975)
- The Drum (1978)
Essays, criticism, non-fiction and political commentary
- The Novelist as Teacher (1965)
- An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (1975) – also in Hopes and Impediments
- 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 (6 October 2009)
- There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra (11 October 2012)
The aforementioned award-winning literary works by Achebe did not only earn him a stream of accolades but also over 30 honorary degrees from universities in Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, England, Scotland, and the United States, including Harvard, Brown University, and Dartmouth College.
Without mincing words, Albert, whose name is synonymous with his iconic novel, Things Fall Apart, is an African literary icon. In this article, we wouldn’t dwell so much on him, having in mind that this great Nigerian icon needs little or no introduction as he is popularly known as the giant of African literature. We’ll bring to you other aspects of his life that are relatively unknown.
African literary icon, Chinua Albert Achebe, was born in Ogidi, a small town near Onitsha, in Anambra State, the eastern region of Nigeria to Isaiah Okafo Achebe (father) and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam (mother), in 1930.
He was the fifth child of his father, who worked as an instructor in Christian catechism for the Church Missionary Society. His older siblings are Frank Okwuofu, John Chukwuemeka Ifeanyichukwu, Zinobia Uzoma, Augustine Ndubisi, while the youngest girl who arrived after Achebe was Grace Nwanneka.
According to reports, Achebe’s parents, who had abandoned their traditional religion and had converted to Christianity, named him Albert, after the husband of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, Prince Albert.
Growing up, he was exposed to traditional and Christian practices as well as storytelling, which was mostly done by members of his family.
Chinua Albert Achebe began his educational career in 1936 at St. Philip’s Central School, Ogidi, Anambra, where he gained popularity as a very bright student with the best handwriting in class. Due to his intelligence, he was promoted to a higher class.
At the age of twelve, precisely in 1943, Achebe enrolled at the Central School, Nekede, where his older brother was teaching. In 1944, he proceeded to Government College, Umuahia for his secondary school education. Due to his intelligence, he completed his studies at the prestigious Government College in four years instead of the standard five, graduating in 1948.
Achebe was later admitted to study medicine as a Major Scholar in Nigeria’s first university, the University College (now the University of Ibadan) in 1948 on a scholarship. He, however, lost his interest in the prestigious course after falling in love with literature the more and coming across so many European pieces of literature about Africa.
Following his decision to quit medicine, he took up English, history and theology, and lost his scholarship in the process. The University College, in the 1950s, was notable for producing literary scholars like Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, poet and playwright John Pepper Clark, poet Christopher Okigbo, and Elechi Amadi, who was in the faculty of sciences though.
It was during his time at the university that Achebe wrote “Polar Undergraduate, which was his debut as an author. He went on to write other essays, short story, and letters about philosophy and freedom in academia, some of which include “In a Village Church”, “The Old Order in Conflict with the New” and “Dead Men’s Path”. He graduated from the university in 1953 and was awarded a second-class degree.
How He Became Famous
After graduation, Achebe was employed at the Merchants of Light school at Oba, where he taught the English language. He left the school in 1954 for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) Lagos, after teaching for just four months.
In 1956, Nigerian iconic author Achebe embarked on his first trip outside Nigeria after he was selected by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) at the Staff School run.
After returning to Nigeria, he began working on his novel “Things Fall Apart” until on June 17, 1958, when 2,000 hard copies of the book were finally published by Heinemann Publishers.
As the father of African literature, Achebe received many international and local accolades for his unprecedented contribution to African literature. He was awarded the first-ever Nigerian National Merit Award (1979); Man Booker International Prize(2007); Dorothy and Lillian Gish $300,000 Prize(2010); Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Population Fund (1999).
In his collection of essays titled Home and Exile, Chinua outlined three reasons for becoming a writer. The first, he said, was the compulsion to tell a story, the second to present it uniquely, and the third the dedication to the task.
His Wife and Children
While working in Enugu as an administrative officer, Chinua Albert Achebe met his wife Christiana Chinwe (Christie) Okoli, who was also a staff at NBS. They later got married on 10 September 1961, in the Chapel of Resurrection on the campus of the University of Ibadan.
Christie and Achebe’s marriage was blessed with two sons and two daughters – Ikechukwu Achebe (born December 3, 1964) Chinelo Achebe (born on 11 July 1962), Chidi Achebe (born May 24, 1967) and Nwando (born March 7, 1970).
Chinelo Achebe-Ejueyitche, who teaches and writes in New York State, where she lives with her family, is already following her father’s steps. She has several books, including ‘The last laugh and other stories’.
Achebe’s last child, Nwando is one of the youngest full-rank professors at the Michigan State University, America. A professor of History, Nwando Achebe-Ogundimu obtained her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2000.
She also served as a Ford Foundation and Fulbright-Hays Scholar-in-Residence at The Institute of African Studies and History Department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1996 and 1998.
See Also: Top 10 African Authors of All Time
Her first novel “Farmers, Traders, Warriors, and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland, 1900-1960” was published in 2005 while her second novel, “The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe” was published in 2011.
Achebe’s second son, Chidi is a physician executive. Dr Chidi, who’s an internist in Boston, Massachusetts, has been in practice for more than 20 years, having received his medical degree from Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
Chinua Achebe’s Net Worth
Truth be told, Chinua Albert Achebe was an illustrious son of Nigeria who made his people and country proud.
His first widely acknowledged work, Things Fall Apart, was initially looked down by the University of Ibadan but after a while, it became an international literary piece and one of the most significant works in African literature. The book later became a success story as he sold over 12 million copies of the book and translated it into 50 different languages, raking in more money from the sales.
Things Fall Apart won immediate international recognition and also became the basis for a play by Biyi Bandele. Years later, in 1997, the Performance Studio Workshop of Nigeria put on a production of the play, which was then presented in the United States as part of the Kennedy Center’s African Odyssey series in 1999. Achebe must have benefitted from all these, which we believe helped in upping his net worth.
Chinua Albert Achebe was an emeritus professor of English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College, a professor at the David and Marianna Fisher University and the head of Africana Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was paid handsomely for his services.
This Nigerian prolific novelist’s net worth is reportedly put at $1.1 Million, making him one of the richest African writers to have lived on earth. In September 2011, Achebe was named one of the 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in contemporary Africa by Forbes.
Revered Nigerian author Chinua Albert Achebe died in Boston, in the United States on March 21, 2013, at the age of 82.
Achebe, a harsh critic of corruption in Nigeria, was buried in his small hometown, Ogidi, on May 20, 2013. The high-profile public event was graced by over 2000 people, including prominent Nigerian leaders, foreign dignitaries, fellow writers and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Prior to his death, Chinua had cheated death severally after surviving various assassination attempts during the Nigerian civil war and a fatal accident that left him paralyzed from waist below in 1990. He spent the remaining part of his life in a wheelchair following the accident.
Interesting Facts About Iconic Novelist Achebe
- Former South African president Nelson Mandela cites Chinua Albert Achebe as one of his favourite authors.
- Until his death on March 21, 2013, Achebe was a grandfather of six.
- The prolific Nigerian novelist met other prominent writers from around the world including Kofi Awoonor, Wole Soyinka and Langston Hughes at an executive conference of African writers in English in Uganda.
- Achebe named Cyprian Ekwensi as a major influence in his career.
- The revered writer strongly backed his native Biafra,
- His sun sign is Scorpio.
- Chinua Achebe Albert died at the age of 82.