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Bard Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Chinua Achebe's Internationally Acclaimed Novel Things Fall Apart

Mark Primoff
 Image Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Chinua Achebe, Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College since 1990, is one of the most important international figures in contemporary literature. This year marks half a century since the publication of his first and most influential novel, Things Fall Apart. Bard College will sponsor a series of literary events in honor of Achebe’s seminal work. “In Things Fall Apart and his other fiction set in Nigeria, Chinua Achebe inaugurated the modern African novel. He also illuminated the path for writers around the world seeking new words and forms for new realities and societies,” says Elaine Showalter, literary scholar and 2007 Man Booker International Prize chair. On Friday, April 11, at 7:00 p.m., Bard College will host “Revisiting Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Fiftieth-Year Retrospective,” a panel discussion moderated by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina (Dartmouth College) with panelists Chinua Achebe (Bard College), Jesse Weaver Shipley (Bard College), Binyavanga Wainaina (Union College), Simon Gikandi (Princeton University), and Christine Griffin (Red Hook High School). This event is made possible with funding from the New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the NEH) and will be taped for future broadcast on WAMC public radio. Free and open to the public, it will be held in the Sosnoff Theater, Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. For more information call 845-758-7900 or go to On Thursday, March 27, at 7:00 p.m., Bard College, SUNY Ulster, and the American Association of University Women–Kingston Chapter will be cosponsoring “Images of Africa: Conrad and Achebe,” a discussion with Myra Armstead (Bard College), Derek Furr (Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Bard College), and Abdou Gaye (SUNY Ulster). Free and open to the public, this event will be held in the Student Lounge (VAN 203) at SUNY Ulster in Stone Ridge, N.Y. On Saturday, March 29, at 1:30 p.m., Bard College and the Poughkeepsie Library District will be cosponsoring “Modernity and Tradition in African Life: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,” a talk with Wendy Urban-Mead (Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Bard College) and Myra Armstead (Bard College). The event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the Mid-Hudson Library System Auditorium, 105 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. On Thursday, April 3, at 12:30 p.m., Nicola Sheara will read from Things Fall Apart with a light lunch provided by the American Association of University Women–Kingston Chapter. Free and open to the public, this event will be held at the Kingston Area Library, 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, N.Y. First published in 1958, Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The novel has been translated into more than 50 languages, making its author the most translated African author of all time. It is has appeared on numerous lists of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Since its first appearance, more than 12 million copies have been sold internationally, and it remains one of the most widely read and influential books ever written. In 2008, literary events and festivities are being held worldwide—in New York City, London, Rio de Janeiro, Houston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Princeton, as well as in Canada, China, Singapore, India, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Gambia, among others—to celebrate the 50-year milestone of Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe was born November 16, 1930, and educated at Government College in Umuahia and at University College of Ibadan, Nigeria. He received a B.A. from London University in 1953 and in 1956 studied broadcasting in London at the BBC. He joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Company in Lagos in 1954, later becoming its director of external broadcasting. During the Civil War in Nigeria he worked for the Biafran government service. After the war he was appointed senior research fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, of which he is now emeritus professor of English. He has lectured at many universities worldwide, served as McMillan-Stewart Lecturer at Harvard and Presidential Fellow Lecturer at the World Bank (both 1998). He is the recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees, as well as numerous awards for his work. Since 1990, he has been Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. In 2004, Achebe declined to accept the title of Commander of the Federal Republic—Nigeria’s second highest honor—in protest over the state of affairs in his native country. In 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize, which is awarded once every two years to a living author for a body of work that has contributed to an achievement in fiction on the world stage. Paralyzed from the waist down in a 1990 car accident, he is married to Christie Chinwe Achebe, visiting professor of psychology at Bard, with whom he has four children.

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This event was last updated on 04-16-2008