Conversations with Chinua Achebe

Overview

Chinua Achebe's books are being read throughout the English-speaking world. They have been translated into more than fifty languages. His publishers estimate that more than eight million copies of his first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) have been sold. As a consequence, he is the best known and most widely studied African author. His distinguished books of fiction and nonfiction include No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, Morning Yet on Creation Day, Christmas in Biafra, and ...

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Overview

Chinua Achebe's books are being read throughout the English-speaking world. They have been translated into more than fifty languages. His publishers estimate that more than eight million copies of his first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) have been sold. As a consequence, he is the best known and most widely studied African author. His distinguished books of fiction and nonfiction include No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, Morning Yet on Creation Day, Christmas in Biafra, and others.

Achebe often has been called the inventor of the African novel. Although he modestly denies the title, it is true that modern African literature would not have flowered so rapidly and spectacularly had he not led the way by telling Africa's story from a distinctively African point of view. Many other Africans have been inspired to write novels by his example.

The interviews collected here span more than thirty years of Achebe's writing career. The earliest was recorded in 1962, the latest in 1995. Together they offer a representative sample of what he has said to interviewers for newspapers, journals, and books in many different countries. Through his own statements we can see Achebe as a man of letters, a man of ideas, a man of words.

As these interviews show, Achebe is an impressive speaker and gifted conversationalist who expresses his ideas in language that is simple yet pungent, moderate yet peppered with colorful images and illustrations. It is this talent for deep and meaningful communication, this intimate way with words, that makes his interviews a delight to read. He has a facility for penetrating to the essence of a question and framing a response that addresses theconcerns of the questioner and sometimes goes beyond those concerns to matters of general interest.

"People," he says, "are expecting from literature serious comment on their lives. They are not expecting frivolity. They are expecting literature to say something important to help them in their struggle with life. This is what literature, what art, is supposed to do: to give us a second handle on reality so that when it becomes necessary to do so, we can turn to art and find a way out. So it is a serious matter."

Bernth Lindfors, Professor of English and African Literatures at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of Folklore in Nigerian Literature, Popular Literatures in Africa, and Comparative Approaches to African Literatures and is the editor of Critical Perspectives on Chinua Achebe, Approaches to Teaching Achebe's "Things Fall Apart."


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780878059294
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Series: Literary Conversations Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chinua Achebe: One big message, of the many that I try to put across, is that Africa was not a vacuum before the coming of Europe, that culture was not unknown in Africa, that culture was not brought to Africa by the white world. You would have thought it was obvious that everybody had a past, but there were people who came to Africa and said, "You have no history, you have no civilization, you have no culture, you have no religion. You are lucky we are here. Now you are hearing about these things from us for the first time." Well, you know, we didn't just drop from the sky. We too had our own history, traditions, cultures, civilizations. It is not possible for one culture to come to another and say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; there is nothing else but me." If you say this, you are guilty of irreverence or arrogance. You are also stupid. And this is really my concern.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
Chronology
Chinua Achebe 3
An Interview with Chinua Achebe 7
Conversation with Chinua Achebe 11
I Had to Write on the Chaos I Foresaw 18
Interview with Chinua Achebe 27
Achebe: Accountable to Our Society 35
Chinua Achebe on Arrow of God 45
Interview with Chinua Achebe 52
The Critical Generation 57
An Interview with Chinua Achebe 64
Chinua Achebe: At the Crossroads 76
Achebe Interviewed 88
Giving Writers a Voice 94
Those Magical Years 99
Literature and Conscientization: Interview with Chinua Achebe 110
Achebe on Editing 124
An Interview with Chinua Achebe 130
Interview with Chinua Achebe 141
Achebe and the Bruised Heart of Africa 155
An Interview with Chinua Achebe 165
Interview with Chinua Achebe 185
Index 193
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