Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) is known the world over for having played a germinal role in the founding and development of African literature. He is considered among the most significant world writers. He is most well known for the groundbreaking 1958 novel Things Fall Apart that has sold over twelve million copies and has been translated into more than fifty languages. Achebe's global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a critical thinker and essayist who has written extensively on questions of the role of culture in Africa and the social and political significance of aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa. He is renowned, for example, for "An Image of Africa," his trenchant critique of Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In addition, Achebe is distinguished in his substantial and weighty investment in the building of literary arts institutions. His work as the founding editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series led to his editing over one hundred titles in it. Achebe also edited the University of Nsukka journal Nsukkascope, founded Okike: A Nigerian Journal of New Writing and assisted in the founding of a publishing house, Nwamife Books–an organization responsible for publishing other groundbreaking work by award-winning writers. Achebe won numerous honors and awards, including The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2010), Man Booker International Award (2007), Presentation in the Everyman's Library collection by Alfred A. Knopf (1992), Rockefeller Fellowship (1960), UNESCO Fellowship for Creative Artists (1960), Margaret Wrong Prize, The New Statesman Jock Campbell Prize, and The Commonwealth Poetry Prize.
This panel, on the first anniversary of Achebe’s death, celebrated his life and writing. Featured speakers included Tijan Sallah, a famous Gambian poet who knew Achebe and wrote a biography of him; Charles Larson, professor emeritus at American University and the first American scholar to publish a book on African literature, who also was a good friend of Achebe’s; and PTI Director Alan Levine, who published two pieces on Achebe.