There are two facts rarely mentioned in the development of Nigerian Literature after independence. One is how Nationalism shaped the Nigerian literary scene, and the other was the establishment of the University College, Ibadan.
After World World 2, many African colonies started agitating for independence from their colonial masters, and Nigeria was one of them. Nnamdi Azikwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Dennis Osadebey, and Tafawa Balewa, to mention a few, were at the forefront of this movement for independence. And with it came the realization that Nigeria needed to write its own stories, and chronicle its own history. The first generation of Nigerian writers wrote for liberation more often than not, and most of their works bore elements of defiance against the colonial narrative about the continent. Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart(1958) is one great example. It was written as a reaction to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which Achebe found offensive and racist.
University College, Ibadan was established as an affiliate of the University of London in 1948 and it was the institution that birthed, and shaped literary excellence in Nigeria. Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Christopher Okigbo, Bekederemo Clark (then known as J. P Clark) and many more were products of the institution. It was the environment that shaped the literary brilliance of the first generation of Nigerian writers, and dare I say that Nigerian literature has not looked back since then.
Still in celebration of Nigeria’s 55 years of Independence, MBC brings you the list (in no particular order) of 55 Nigerian writers you should read. The list contains writers, poets, and playwrights, all chosen for their excellence.
1. Chinua Achebe (1930 – 2013):
Achebe was born in Anambra state in South East Nigeria to Igbo parents. He won scholarship to study Medicine at UI, but later dropped it for English after reading some European authored stereotypical stories about Africa and felt the need for Africans to tell their own stories. After graduation, he taught for four months before getting a job at the Nigerian Broadcasting Service in Lagos.
When the Civil war broke out, he took his family, first to Port-harcourt and later to Aba, from where he wrote poetry, contained in “Beware, Soul Brother”. He would later live permanently in the Unites States after a car accident on his way to Lagos paralyzed him from the waist down.
His writing style took inspiration from his his environment, as well as his Igbo ancestry. Achebe’s fusion of folktales, proverbs and myths into a contemporary body of work that eulogized Africa’s cultural heritage remains one of his biggest legacies. Also of note is the fact that his novels tends to culminate in the triumph of the communal over the individual – also a paramount belief in the African culture, and a testament to his Africaness.
Achebe’s book Things fall Apart is the crowning glory of Nigerian literature. It was the book that made the world interested in Nigerian literature, and remains one of the real masterpieces of African and world literature.
What they say: Nardine Gordimer, a Nobel Laureate said he (Achebe) was a novelist who makes you laugh and then catxh your breath in horror – a writer who who has no illusions but is not disilluasioned
Books: Things fall Apart(1952), No Longer at Ease(1969), Anthill of the Savannah(1972), Arrows of God(1964) A man of the People(1966), The African Trilogy(1988), There was a Country(2012), Girls at war and other stories(1972)
Facts: Things fall Apart has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into over 45 languages. Chinua Achebe has won over 40 international awards.