Known as the “father of modern African literature”, Chinua Achebe was an award-winning Nigerian novelist, poet and professor whose scholarly excellence is well represented in his many literary creations.
Although he passed away in 2013, Achebe lives on through his work, which is celebrated the world over. On Thursday, November 16, which would have been Achebe’s 87th birthday, Google decided to celebrate him with a doodle on its homepage.
The prized gesture by the American tech giant underscores Achebe’s status as an influential figure of the 20th century, especially in the field of literature. The doodle comprised of the legend’s caricature with his signature cap and images of his famous literary works.
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Illustrious Writer of All Time
Born in November 1930 in Igbo village, Nigeria, Chinua Achebe grew up in a community that practiced storytelling as part of its tradition. He started his education at St Philip’s Central School where his teacher described him as the pupil with the best handwriting and reading skills.
He later enrolled at the prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School, a British public school in Onitsha, Nigeria. The school helped Achebe develop proficiency in the English language as no other language was allowed within the institution.
In college, Achebe enrolled for a course in medicine but later abandoned it for English, history, and theology.
At the age of 20, Achebe wrote his first piece for the University Herald entitled “Popular Undergraduate”. The piece, which was his debut as an author, was full of humor and irony. He followed it up with several other essays and letters about philosophy and freedom in academia.
His first short story “In a Village Church, which he wrote when he was still a student at the University College in Nigeria, combined details of his early life in the village with Christian institutions and icons. This piece opened the way for him to write many other short stories, including the “The Old Order in Conflict with the New” and Dead Men’s Path”.
Having grown up in the colonial era, most of his literary works sought to wrest the African literature from the Western control. Achebe gained international acclaim when he wrote “Things Fall Apart” in 1958.
The book sought to highlight both the pre-colonial and post-colonial happenings through the actions of Okonkwo, an Igbo leader and warrior. Up to this day, the novel, which has been incorporated in many African school syllabuses, is still seen as the archetypical modern African novel written in English.
The Nigerian literature legend also wrote many other award-winning books, including “No Longer at Ease”, “Arrow of God”, “A Man of the People”, “Anthills of the Savannah”, among others.
Achebe was a major critic of the Nigerian government. He even rejected the government’s offer to name him the Commander of the Federal Republic, which is a great honor in Nigeria. The government had made him the offer twice but he turned it down, citing rampant corruption in government.
During the Biafran War, which was between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra, Achebe supported Biafra and partnered with the separatists to push for the creation of a new country.
He served as the chief communication officer for Biafra, securing aid and raising awareness about the plight of his people across the world. Achebe died in 2013 aged 82. He is remembered for his creative, outspoken style of writing and his willingness to talk about politics.