Paralyzed in a car crash in 1990, Chinua Achebe remained productive for 23 years

Michael Eli Dokosi Apr 1, 2020 at 04:00pm

April 01, 2020 at 04:00 pm | Success Story

Michael Eli Dokosi

Michael Eli Dokosi | Staff Writer

April 01, 2020 at 04:00 pm | Success Story

Chinua Achebe via yourcommonwealth.org

Globally acclaimed Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe came to the world’s attention with his ‘Things Fall Apart,’ book published in 1958, renowned as one of the seminal works of African literature. The book sold more than 20 million copies getting translated into more than 50 languages.

He proved the feat was no fluke by releasing novels such as No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). All the books received rave reviews across the globe.

Life was good as he married his wife Christie Chinwe Okoli in 1961 with whom he birthed four children, but the 1990s proved pivotal for Chinua and the Achebe family when he got involved in a car accident in Nigeria. The incident left him paralyzed from the waist down and would confine him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

On March 22, 1990, Achebe was riding in a car to Lagos when an axle collapsed and the car flipped. His son Ikechukwu and the driver suffered minor injuries, but the weight of the vehicle fell on Achebe and his spine was severely damaged. He was flown to the Paddocks Hospital in Buckinghamshire, England for treatment.

Achebe relocated to the United States and proved he was as resilient as he was gifted. For 23 years, he remained productive despite being wheelchair bound. He became the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College, just north of New York City for 15 years. In 2009, he left Bard to join the faculty of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, as the David and Marianna Fisher University professor and professor of Africana studies.

Achebe died after a short illness on March 21, 2013 aged 82 in Boston, Massachusetts. His awards include the Man Booker International Prize (2007) and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2010). Additionally, he received honorary degrees from more than 30 universities around the world.

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