Chinua Achebe 2010 Recipient

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Born in Nigeria in 1930, Chinua Achebe put African literature on the map with his groundbreaking novel Things Fall Apart (1958), which has sold over ten million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 50 languages. Achebe followed this work with over 20 books including novels, short stories, essays and collections of poetry, he used creative and critical writing as a force to forge a better understanding of modern-day Africa.

A graduate of the University College, Ibadan, Achebe began his career in radio, leaving his post during the national upheaval that led to the Biafran War and separation of Biafra from Nigeria. Achebe went on to represent Biafra on various diplomatic fronts before Nigeria retook the region. Achebe then embarked on an academic career, lecturing widely in Nigeria and abroad. After nearly two decades at Bard College, Achebe was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University until his death in 2013.

Achebe worked continuously to encourage the spread of African culture. He founded a number of magazines for African art, fiction and poetry as well as the indigenous stories of the Igbo community, and was instrumental in bringing post-colonial African works to a larger audience as editor of the African Writers Series for Heinemann Publishing. Achebe was also an outspoken commentator on African issues, he delivered social and political critiques and spearheaded initiatives such as the Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa at Brown University.

Among Achebe’s works are Arrow of God (1964); Beware, Soul Brother and Other Poems (1971), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize; Anthills of the Savannah (1987), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays (1988); and Home and Exile (2000). He received numerous honors including the Honorary Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as honorary doctorates from more than 30 colleges and universities. He was also the recipient of Nigeria’s highest award for intellectual achievement, the Nigerian National Merit Award. In 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction.

Selection Committee

Kwame Anthony Appiah – Author, editor, philosopher and African studies scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah joined the New York University faculty in 2014. Having previously taught at Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Harvard Universities, he is widely published in African and African-American literary and cultural studies. Among his titles are: In My Father’s House, The Ethics of Identity, Experiments in Ethics and, The Honor Code. He has served on the board of the PEN American Center, the National Humanities Center and is the President of the Modern Language Association. His many honors include the National Humanities Medal, the Gitler Prize from Brandeis University and honorary degrees from Bard, and Swarthmore colleges and Colgate, Columbia and Fairleigh Dickinson universities.