Chinua Achebe is considered to be the most influential African novelist of the modern period. Over ten million copies of his first novel, Things Fall Apart, have been sold in the English-speaking world since its publication in 1958. Things Fall Apart, which has been translated into over fifty languages, is considered to be a seminal work in the making of modern literature and is taught in institutions of education from the elementary to the tertiary level in several continents. But Achebe is also a literary and social critic, and his pronouncements on a range of subjects from the role of English in Africa, the ideologies of colonial criticism, and problems of governance and ethics on the continent have been central in debates about postcolonial identities. Just as Achebe’s novels have shaped the canon of African letters, his essays and lectures are indispensible in understanding the promise and challenge of African independence since the late 1950s. Achebe’s social criticism, often directed at the excesses of power in Africa, underdevelopment, and especially the way the continent has been presented in the Western media and imagination, constitute a coherent body of thought. His novels, which are set in almost every major period of modern African history, can be read as an imaginative response to the crisis of the African self in the aftermath of colonialism and decolonization.
Achebe’s response to the crisis of decolonization in Africa was articulated powerfully in a series of essays collected in Morning Yet on Creation Day, Hopes and Impediments, and Home and Exile. These essays, together with the interviews he has provided since the early 1960s, are notable for their preoccupation with a set of issues surrounding the African personality and the role of culture in Africa. Achebe’s contribution to African thought is evident in three areas: the project of rehabilitating the African image from the colonial library; the transformation of the terms of literary criticism; and the search for an ethics of identity in the postcolonial moment. (Continue) From the Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought