Written by Refinery 29
Almost every high schooler is familiar with at least one of Chinua Achebe’s acclaimed novels. The Nigerian author penned numerous curriculum essentials, including Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, and A Man of the People. Today, Google is honoring Achebe’s lasting legacy with a Doodle in his image, celebrating him what would have been his 87th birthday.
In Achebe’s obituary in March 2013, The New York Times described the author as the person who “helped to revive African literature and rewrite the story of a continent that had long been told by Western voices.” He was born in an Ibo village in southeastern Nigeria. Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, catapulted him to fame during his late 20s. The book, the first in a trilogy, recounts an Ibo leader’s struggles to maintain his people’s culture during British colonial rule in the 1800s.
The book’s themes, in particular its sharp look at the impact of colonialism, remained prominent throughout Achebe’s work. In an interview with The Paris Review in 1994, Achebe explained how reading other nations’ depictions of his own, ones that described them as “savages”, inspired him to take action and become a voice for his people:
“That was the way I was introduced to the danger of not having your own stories. There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian.”
Today’s colorful Doodle, in which the Google letters are spelled out using an image of Achebe and illustrations of his work, honors his role as a historian. Head here to take a look at some of the other drafts of the Doodle. Then, celebrate Achebe’s legacy yourself by reading or re-reading one of his novels.
credit: Refinery 29
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