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At the Crossroads Hour

Lewis Nkosi: Chinua Achebe

12 November 1998
Chinua AchebeA Biography 
by Ezenwa-Ohaeto.
Curry, 326 pp., £25, November 1997, 0 253 33342 3
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... in Africa especially, the vocation of writing takes its revenge on those who have tasted the thrill of representing the drama of a vast, unwieldy and refractory continent – a drama of becoming. ChinuaAchebe has not escaped this penance. Reading through millions of words of public statements, of reviews and interviews, of adulation and accusation, one is struck by the high price he has paid for ...
22 June 1989
Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays 1967-87 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 130 pp., £10.95, January 1988, 0 435 91000 0
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... Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist.’ This quotation is taken from ‘An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness’, a lecture delivered by the Nigerian novelist ChinuaAchebe as long ago as 1974 and now collected in Hopes and Impediments. In City Without Walls, W.H. Auden included this squib: Even Hate should be precise: very few White Folks have fucked their mothers. A ...

Things Left Unsaid

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Achebe​ on Biafra

11 October 2012
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra 
by Chinua Achebe.
Allen Lane, 333 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84614 576 6
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... and most influential African poet in English, Christopher Okigbo, joined the Biafran army. He was a romantic, unsatisfied with the administrative or diplomatic roles his fellow intellectuals took on; ChinuaAchebe, his close friend, describes him as a man about whom there was a certain inevitability of drama and event. Mere months into the war, he died in battle. Achebe’s recollection of Okigbo’s ...
7 August 1986
Mating Birds 
by Lewis Nkosi.
Constable, 184 pp., £8.95, July 1986, 0 00 946724 6
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Lost Time 
by Catharine Arnold.
Hodder, 220 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 340 38783 1
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The Bridge 
by Iain Banks.
Macmillan, 259 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 333 41285 0
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Incidents at the Shrine 
by Ben Okri.
Heinemann, 130 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 434 53230 4
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Things fall apart 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 150 pp., £3.50, July 1986, 0 435 90526 0
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The Innocents 
by Carolyn Slaughter.
Viking, 219 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 670 81016 9
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...  and he does it in language that is itself disintegrating and full of the terminology of vomiting and shit. The mood of his collection of short stories, Incidents at the Shrine, harks back to ChinuaAchebe’s Things fall apart, whose appearance in 1958 marked the beginning of modern African literature. In that novel Achebe described the changes that occurred within the Igbo society of Umuofia ...

Powerful People

D.A.N. Jones

15 October 1987
Anthills of the Savannah 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 233 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 434 00604 1
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Familiar Wars 
by Julietta Harvey.
Joseph, 251 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 7181 2823 0
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Lenin: The Novel 
by Alan Brien.
Secker, 703 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 436 06840 0
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... ChinuaAchebe’s masterly novel concerns three powerful Africans. They are drawn on the dust-cover as three green bottles, from the English song: ‘If one green bottle should accident’ly fall ...’ One is the ...

Sing like Parrots

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Ngugi wa Thiong’o

15 December 2016
Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening 
by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Harvill Secker, 256 pp., £14.99, November 2016, 978 1 84655 989 1
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... on ‘African writers of English expression’, and he was invited to join a panel on the strength of a handful of short stories published by a local press in Kenya. At the conference he approached ChinuaAchebe, one of the stars of the event, whose novel Things Fall Apart had appeared four years earlier in Britain and gone on to become the first, and most enduring, title in the newly established ...
19 July 2018
... Neogy cast all his writers as public intellectuals, whether or not they inclined to the universalist view of scholarship and letters. Contributors included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, ChinuaAchebe, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, as well as a cohort of South African writers who were wrestling with apartheid, among them Nadine Gordimer, Ezekiel Mphelele, Dennis Brutus and Lewis Nkosi ...

What Naipaul knows

Frank Kermode: V.S. Naipaul

6 September 2001
Half a Life 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Picador, 214 pp., £15.99, September 2001, 0 330 48516 4
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... as it has been to him. They deplore his attribution of African miseries to some essential, primeval African darkness, and won’t endorse his way of sharing out blame between colonist and colonised. ChinuaAchebe, among others, has led the attack on Conrad’s atavistic vision of the continent. The story of this conflict is told at some length in Rob Nixon’s book London Calling (1992), which also ...
3 July 1986
Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass 
by Karen Blixen.
Penguin, 351 pp., £3.95, January 1986, 0 14 008533 5
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Out of Africa 
by Karen Blixen.
Century, 288 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 7126 1016 2
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Isak Dinesen: The Life of Karen Blixen 
by Judith Thurman.
Penguin, 511 pp., £3.50, April 1986, 9780140096996
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... Elspeth Huxley and Karen Blixen (that old feudalist!) in the tradition of “great racists like Hume, Trollope, Hegel and Trevor-Roper, all arch-priests of privilege, racism and class snobbery”.’ ChinuaAchebe, says Hills, has made a more constructive point in this argument – simply that, even today, the whites do all the talking and the blacks are supposed to do the listening. To give Baroness ...

Our Credulous Grammarian

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Soyinka’s Dubious Friendships

2 August 2007
You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir 
by Wole Soyinka.
Methuen, 626 pp., £18.99, May 2007, 978 0 413 77628 0
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... Major-General Mamman Vatsa in an impending coup. Vatsa also happened to be an aspiring poet and active member of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and Soyinka, in the company of the novelist ChinuaAchebe and the poet J.P. Clark-Bekederemo, made a much-publicised visit to the general to plead on behalf of their colleague. Babangida received them sympathetically, declared his own reluctance to ...

Into the Future

David Trotter: The Novel

22 March 2007
The Novel: Vol. I: History, Geography and Culture 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 916 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04947 5
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The Novel: Vol. II: Forms and Themes 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 950 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04948 3
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... elegant enquiry into ‘creative fetishism’ in Midnight’s Children; from Abdelfattah Kilito on Hamadhānī through Perry Anderson on Montesquieu and A.S. Byatt on Balzac to Simon Gikandi on ChinuaAchebe. Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel – if not the entire ‘literary field’ – ‘longer, larger and deeper’ than it was before, or than any ...

How to Shoe a Flea

James Meek: Nikolai Leskov

25 April 2013
‘The Enchanted Wanderer’ and Other Stories 
by Nikolai Leskov, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Vintage, 608 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 09 957735 5
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The Enchanted Wanderer 
by Nikolai Leskov, translated by Ian Dreiblatt.
Melville House, 256 pp., £8.99, August 2012, 978 1 61219 103 4
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... to consumer, from inherited status to acquired status. For all that he has been called the most Russian of Russian writers, there’s a universality about him that finds echoes in non-Russians like ChinuaAchebe or James Hogg who span the distance from village hearth to salon without feeling the need to pledge allegiance to one or the other. Leskov is the titular protagonist of Walter Benjamin’s ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin

20 September 2001
... faggot style’, or did it originate, as John Edgar Wideman claimed, from a mixture of the King James Bible and African American speech? Was it full of the clarity, eloquence and intelligence that ChinuaAchebe suggested? And was Baldwin’s involvement with the Civil Rights Movement a cautionary tale for other writers, as Hilton Als insisted, or one of the things we should most admire him for, as ...

Shoot them to be sure

Richard Gott: The Oxford History of the British Empire

25 April 2002
The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. I: The Origins of Empire 
edited by William Roger Louis and Nicholas Canny.
Oxford, 533 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924676 9
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. II: The 18th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and P.J. Marshall.
Oxford, 639 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924677 7
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. III: The 19th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and Andrew Porter.
Oxford, 774 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924678 5
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. IV: The 20th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and Judith Brown.
Oxford, 773 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924679 3
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. V: Historiography 
edited by William Roger Louis and Robin Winks.
Oxford, 731 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924680 7
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... quelling rebellions in Nigeria, made ready use of the new technologies. Revelations about his early career owe much to African oral traditions resurrected by historians and exploited by novelists. ChinuaAchebe, in Things Fall Apart (1958), describes the scene on market day in Abame when punishment was exacted for the murder of a white man who had arrived in the village ‘riding an iron horse ...
11 February 1993
Wagner in Performance 
edited by Barry Millington and Stewart Spencer.
Yale, 214 pp., £19.95, July 1992, 0 300 05718 0
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Wagner: Race and Revolution 
by Paul Lawrence Rose.
Faber, 304 pp., £20, June 1992, 9780571164653
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Wagner Handbook 
edited by Ulrich Müller and Peter Wapnewski, translated by John Deathridge.
Harvard, 711 pp., £27.50, October 1992, 0 674 94530 1
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Richard Wagner’s Visit to Rossini and An Evening at Rossini’s in Beau-Séjour 
by Edmond Michotte, translated by Herbert Weinstock.
Quartet, 144 pp., £12.95, November 1992, 9780704370319
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... but ought we to ban Edmund Spenser for his genocidal views of the Irish, or Carlyle for his theses on the ‘nigger question’, or Renan for his ideas about the ‘Semitic mind’? Some years ago ChinuaAchebe attacked Conrad’s racism in Heart of Darkness, and found direct links between that work and the dehumanisation and exploitation of Africa. What he was trying to do was not to prevent ...

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