Google honored Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe for Thursday’s Google Doodle in celebration of what would have been the world-renowned author’s 87th birthday.
He received the Man Booker International prize for fiction in 2007, and South African Nobel prize laureate Nadine Gordimer, one of the judges for the prize, described him as the “father of modern African literature,” according to The Guardian.
Achebe is most well known for his widely-read novel “Things Fall Apart,” which has sold more than 12 million copies and been translated into more than 50 languages since it was published in 1958, according to Al Jazeera. The book follows the struggle of a Nigerian man named Okonkwo as he comes to grips with the changes his culture undergoes in the face of encroachment by white missionaries.
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He is noted as a writer who challenged the traditional portrayal of Africans in literature, depicting them not as simple stock characters but as complex human beings with deep cultures and beliefs.
“It arguably helped set the tone for African literature and writers taking charge of their own narrative using distinct African characters,” wrote Tomi Kazeem for Quartz Africa.
A prolific writer, he published dozens of works, including five novels, volumes of poetry, essays, short stories and even children’s books.
Achebe was born in the Nigerian Igbo village of Ogidi in November of 1930. He studied English and literature and eventually became a leading lecturer and professor, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
He was a vocal critic of certain depictions of Africa, most notably those of Joseph Conrad, who published the famous novella “Heart of Darkness.” Achebe criticized the way Conrad depicted the African villagers as subhuman and called the book “deplorable” in an essay.
“His pen brought to life the land and traditions of the Igbo: the hum of everyday village life; the anticipation and excitement of sacred masquerades; the stories of the elders and the honor of warriors; the joy of family and the grief of loss,” Google wrote in a blog post about the doodle.
Achebe died in March 2013 at the age of 82. In his obituary, the New York Times described him as a “literary titan.”