PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University announced today (Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009) that internationally acclaimed Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe has joined the Brown University faculty. Achebe comes to Brown after 19 years on the faculty of Bard College, where he was the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature.
Named the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and professor of Africana studies at Brown, Achebe is best known for his novels and essays which critique postcolonial Nigerian politics and society as well as the impact of the West on Africa.
Born in Ogidi, an Igbo village in Nigeria, Achebe studied at University College (now the University of Ibadan). His first novel, Things Fall Apart, is the most widely read work of African fiction, having sold more than 12 million copies in English alone. It has been translated into 50 languages. His other prominent works include No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People, and Anthills of the Savannah.
For many decades, Achebe has worked to build greater understanding of Africa through his uncompromising political commentary, social critique, and creative writing. Acknowledged godfather to many African writers, he served for a time as editor of the African Writers Series for Heinemann Publishing. He is the author of numerous collections of short stories, poetry and essays. One of his essays, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” aroused considerable debate and had a marked impact on Conrad criticism. A devoted student of Igbo culture, his latest work on Igbo culture and theology is scheduled to be published in October 2009 by the University of Notre Dame Press.
Achebe is the recipient of numerous honors. He was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for outstanding fiction in 2007. Among his more than 40 honorary degrees is an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brown, where he will serve in the Department of Africana Studies and oversee the Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa, a new initiative to be developed by Achebe in keeping with his life’s work to foster greater knowledge of Africa.
Faculty perspectives on the appointment of Chinua Achebe.
Tricia Rose, chair of the Department of Africana Studies, said, “We are honored and thrilled to welcome Professor Achebe to Africana studies and to the Brown community. He is a towering figure in African literature and postcolonial thought. We will benefit enormously from his ongoing insights into the necessity and complexity of global, cross-racial translations and exchanges.”
Bard College, with a distinguished history of supporting Achebe’s work and legacy, will continue to provide a home to Achebe projects which the writer will continue to guide. “My history and ongoing relationship with Bard is very important to me,” Achebe said. “I want to preserve and enhance the excellent and gratifying work that we have begun and will maintain at Bard. President Botstein and my many colleagues at Bard have my enduring gratitude for their vision and commitment to my life’s work.”
“Brown is delighted to be invited to contribute to what President Leon Botstein has so brilliantly accomplished,” Brown President Ruth J. Simmons said.
The start-up phase of the Brown Achebe Colloquium is expected to last throughout the fall semester, with Achebe launching the colloquium with a major lecture this fall.
Achebe is married to Christy Achebe, a visiting professor at Bard. They have four children.