In honor of the 62nd anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart—a novel about the horrors of colonialism that still feels horrifyingly relevant—I spent some time this morning watching a 1964 conversation between Achebe and two other titans of African literature, Lewis Nkosi and Wole Soyinka.
The interview is well worth watching in full, but highlights include Achebe discussing being “inspired” by Irish writer Joyce Cary’s novel about Nigeria, Mister Johnson: “but not in the usual way… I happened to read it, I think in my second year [at university], and I said to myself, This is absurd. And if somebody without knowledge—without any inside knowledge—of the people he’s trying to describe can get away with it, perhaps I ought to try my hand.”
He also talks about a recent trip to the US, during which he met Langston Hughes and John Killens, and issues this witheringly accurate description of his European critics: “I object to people preaching from a position of ignorance. This you find quite a lot in the criticisms that are made of our work. Even when they are praising you, you find that this isn’t really for the right reasons at all.”
Watch the whole thing here: