Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe on CNN's 'African voices'



[Applause] he is one of the founding fathers of African literature the winner of countless honors and awards and the author of dozens of acclaimed essays and books including the groundbreaking novel themes fall apart which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year his works have been taught throughout the world and he's a hero in his homeland of Nigeria you are my brothers and sisters I've been there way too long this week on African voices the novelist poet and professor Chinua Achebe you think you are the greatest sufferer in the world do you know that both that men are sometimes banished for life do you know that men sometimes lose all their yams and even their children I had six wives once I have known now except that young girl who knows not her right from her left do you know how many children I have buried children i begot in my youth and strength 22 I did not hang myself and I'm still alive if you think you know the greatest sufferer in the world ask my daughter a Queenie how many twins she has born and thrown away have you not heard the song they sing when a woman dies for whom is it well for whom is it well there is no one for whom it is well Oh McAllen yay Oh McAllen yay oh well on your dinner MA tucked away in a quiet town in upstate New York is where you'll find renowned author Chinua Achebe he's been living and working as a professor here for nearly 20 years it's a long way from his homeland the ebo region of Nigeria I spent a day with him discussing family books and storytelling I think storytelling was my life was part of my life I was very curious about stories so even attempting to remember the first one I think is like remembering the day you were born I'm not sure you can it's so fitting we're sitting in a library it seemed to be one of your favorite places to be well at that level I was absolutely fascinated by books and I had in school that understood particularly the value and the importance of books and life and libraries you were not expected you were not allowed to read text books after classes on a certain number of days the principal called it the textbook act which in the past and you were forbidden to read to pick up a yell graffiti or history at this government College in ammonia he read European classics like David Copperfield in heart of darkness a work that he would in later years call racist but as a child he saw no harm when you would read some of these books you would side with the European characters or the white characters and not with the African characters I find that hard to believe is that true it's absolutely true and it's it's not hard to believe what it tells you is the power that stories have the power that writing cuz I read a quote somewhere that it says the white man was good and reasonable and intelligent and courageous the savages arrayed against them were sinister and stupid I hated their guts that's right now that was my recollection one of my recollections of my encounter with English literature they were depicted as definitely not European the way in incapable of creating a civilization also stating one so you saw them in a very bad light and this was very consistent when I came to the age when I was able to draw a line between a good story and a story that is contrived for a purpose sorry that puts me in in the position of savage jumping up and down in over the Riverside as having done nothing having created nothing of worth when I began to read at that depth which is not a depth for little-kid children I then it sort of dawned on you one morning that there are something behind this storytelling as part of your responsibility in your mind as a writer to accurately depict your people yes well I think it's my ambition to distinguish between good novels and bad novels and not talking about looking good I'm talking about seeing a human being as human what did your parents make you wanted to be a writer I wouldn't say there was any protest but there wasn't any rejoicing either you see I think I was lucky and in the family I had and have we don't impose on others this is one great thing with that sort of freedom it allows you to to pursue your true passions then which is rare and I would argue in most Nigerian families you're not encouraged to pursue your passions no know that especially if you describe it as passions were you born a writer coming up a chubby tells us what makes writing worth it you

31 thoughts on “Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe on CNN's 'African voices'

  1. A bit he looks like my former president, the late Nelson Mandela

  2. The greatest set back Africa has is that very damnation created by the British which in every sense represents a ZOO-NIGERIA, with the animals in their respective CAGES, from whence they've been snarling at each other Hence retarded and Arrested Development.

    A place where Policemen set up check points to extort money from motorists because they want to drink pepper soup, a place where you elect a president and he rules as a dictator and no one says anything, a zoo where the law requires a certain qualification to be elected as an official but No, some uneducated tribe appears to be above the law yet people are earnestly praying and waiting to see development. A country created on fraud…..the list goes on!

  3. "Until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter"

  4. May his great work continue to inspire other African writers

  5. We love you. Thank you for your great contributions to the world of literature.

  6. I read one of his books many years ago and it was the best literary prose that culturally, historically, and politically I had ever read that depicted Sub-Saharan Africans in an understandable light. I appreciate the depth of his characterizations of pre-colonial Ibo culture! 1000s of kudos to this magnificent literary writer. "Things Fall Apart" put me mentally and emotionally in the midst of Ibo culture in the epoch depicted in the novel.

  7. being married to an Edo woman I am very interested in Naija. I have been interested in West Africa anyway even before I met my wife. My point is, I am European so my point of view if may be a bit different, please cherish your Nigerian writers and poets, whether they are Edo, Yoruba,Ibo,Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani etc, so read Achebe, Soyinka,Okri etc..I have, thanks to my wife

  8. Influence is not achievements in life and Europeans understood this concept, for this reason university educations are not priority but individual's role in society.
    For some one to think that education to level of PhD is what makes different is uncertain of history of the world.

  9. @samuelsams1 can you please email us at redazione At africanews DOT it? Thank you

  10. Hey u posted comment on youtube about when the north nigeria will produce an author, for your information i am from the North, am a core notherner with typical hausa fulani accent but now in Switzerland's private christian university heading software department. And guess what? Am in my early twenties, quick enough for the North to produce influential person than other regions you thought. If u wanna find how correct this is, then mail me personally and we can figure this out…

  11. the interviewer is hot,things fall apart was what got me interested in literature and i haven't looked back since. Nice to know the old guy is still kicking, great story teller.

  12. Good writer, but completely misinterpreted Heart of Darkness and his faulty arguments has attempted to take away from the merits of that masterpiece on colonialism and the point seemed to fly right over his head as he seemed so focused on his own personal bias.

  13. @Danladi27 Truth is bitter but ba kwomi in sha allah everything will be okay. The north too are not more interested of say na brother dey rule but somebody who has something to offer our beloved Nigeria

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