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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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... of representing the drama of a vast, unwieldy and refractory continent – a drama of becoming. Chinua Achebe 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 being Africa’s greatest indigenous ...

Conrad and Prejudice

Craig Raine, 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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... of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness’, a lecture delivered by the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe 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 valid point, except that, in 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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... unsatisfied with the administrative or diplomatic roles his fellow intellectuals took on; Chinua Achebe, 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 death in There Was ...

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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... Chinua Achebe’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 President of an African state, generally known as His Excellency, though his old schoolmates remember him as Sam ...

Turns of the Screw

Hugh Barnes, 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 shit. The mood of his collection of short stories, Incidents at the Shrine, harks back to Chinua Achebe’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 in Nigeria during ...

You and Non-You

Blake Morrison: ‘This Mournable Body’, 7 May 2020

This Mournable Body 
by Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.99, January, 978 0 571 35551 8
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... 1968 to 1999 – deserves to be better known. Nervous Conditions has had many admirers, including Chinua Achebe, Alice Walker and Doris Lessing, who called it ‘the novel we have all been waiting for’. The first sentence is irresistible: ‘I was not sorry when my brother died.’ But Dangarembga spent four years trying to find a publisher for it and ...

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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... of a handful of short stories published by a local press in Kenya. At the conference he approached Chinua Achebe, 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 Heinemann African Writers Series. Ngugi had the ...

The Old Feudalist

D.A.N. Jones, 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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... Trollope, Hegel and Trevor-Roper, all arch-priests of privilege, racism and class snobbery”.’ Chinua Achebe, 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 Blixen her due, she did listen to Africans. The worst ...

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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... African darkness, and won’t endorse his way of sharing out blame between colonist and colonised. Chinua Achebe, 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 questions, from a similarly critical point of ...

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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... on Hamadhānī through Perry Anderson on Montesquieu and A.S. Byatt on Balzac to Simon Gikandi on Chinua Achebe. 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 single scholar could ever make ...

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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... active member of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and Soyinka, in the company of the novelist Chinua Achebe 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 spill blood and assured the delegation that he would ...

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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... of Russian writers, there’s a universality about him that finds echoes in non-Russians like Chinua Achebe 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 essay ‘The Storyteller’, where the critic offers ...
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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... on the ‘nigger question’, or Renan for his ideas about the ‘Semitic mind’? Some years ago Chinua Achebe 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 Africans from reading Conrad, but rather to show them that ...

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

... view of scholarship and letters. Contributors included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Chinua Achebe, 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.From the start, Transition had commissioned work ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... Bible and African American speech? Was it full of the clarity, eloquence and intelligence that Chinua Achebe 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 Amiri Baraka argued? Is his best book the book that ...

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