Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chinua Achebe, Past and Present

PERHAPS the most consistently engaging critics of new books these days, the New York Times' Dwight Garner, has a fine piece today on the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, author of colonialism classic "Things Fall Apart." Achebe's new collection of essays -- his first book of any kind in two decades -- is called "The Education of a British Protected Child."

In the new collection, which I've not seen yet, Achebe talks about Joseph Conrad -- Achebe's writing on the  "Heart of Darkness" and its racism have become well-known over the years -- the English novels he grew up reading, Nigerian politics, and his decision to write in English and not one of his nation's more deeply rooted languages.

When "Things Fall Apart" -- an enduring and incisive novel -- turned 50 last year, I spoke to several African novelists, including Achebe himself and fellow Igbo Chris Abani. Here's my story. And I look forward to seeing Achebe's new collection.

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