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Chinua Achebe

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From Chimamanda Adichie’s review of There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe (LRB, 11 October 2012):

He began to write Things Fall Apart after a British lecturer told him an earlier story he had written lacked ‘form’, but was then unable to explain to him what form meant. ‘I was conscripted by the story,’ he writes, ‘and I was writing at all times – whenever there was any opening. It felt like a sentence, an imprisonment of creativity.’ He is, famously, one of the writers who ‘wrote back’ to the ‘West’, who challenged, by writing his own story, the dominant and reductive Western images of his people. In his essay ‘The Novelist as Teacher’ he wrote that he would be happy if his work did nothing more than show his people that theirs had not been a life of darkness before the advent of the Europeans. ‘The writer,’ he says, ‘is often faced with two choices – turn away from the reality of life’s intimidating complexity or conquer its mystery by battling with it. The writer who chooses the former soon runs out of energy and produces elegantly tired fiction.’ On the other hand, his work never sinks under this burden of responsibility.

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