Google has resolved to change its logo to a doodle in honor of the late Chinua Achebe, who is considered to be one of Africa’s greatest storyteller. He would have been 87 on Thursday.
Born in Ogidi to an Igbo family of Nigeria, West Africa in 1930, Achebe was the son of an evangelical priest. In love with reading and writing, he completed English studies at the University of Ibadan in just four years instead of five, which was the standard.
Achebe was disappointed in the European interpretation of African culture and the ignorance about the continent and its people.
He co-founded Citadel Press with renowned writer Christopher Okigbo to publish better quality children books for African children.
In 1958, he published his first and most widely read novel, Things Fall Apart. The novel portrays the clash of cultures that took place when Christian missionaries and Western colonials encountered traditional African societies in the 19th century.
Things Fall Apart is still one of the most read books in modern African literature. The novel sold over 12 million copies and was translated into more than 50 languages.
In 1961, he married Christie Okoli and had four children. He also worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.
When Biafra broke away from Nigeria in 1967, Achebe became a strong Biafran supporter.
He wrote about the dire conditions of Biafran refugees in “Refugee Mother and Child”:
Of unwashed children with washed-out ribs
And dried-up bottoms waddling in labored steps,
Behind blown-empty bellies. Other mothers there
Had long ceased to care, but not this one
In 1969, frustrated by corruption and political unrest in Nigeria, Achebe relocated to the United States as a university lecturer.
He returned to Nigeria in 1971 and worked as an English professor.
In 1990 Achebe was in a car crash in Nigeria that left him permanently paralyzed and in a wheelchair. That same year he relocated back to the US and taught at Bard College for 15 years.
Achebe joined Brown University as a professor of African Studies in 2009.
He was awarded 30 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
He won many literary awards, from the inaugural Nigerian National Merit Award in 1979 to the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction in 2007.
He also won The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2010 which is an annual prize given to “a person that has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.”
He died in Boston on March 21, 2013, at the age of 82.