His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) is widely considered his magnum opus, and is the most widely read book in modern African literature.
Achebe received numerous accolades and has been called “the father of modern African writing”. We celebrate the legacy of one of Africa’s foremost writers with 10 quotes from his selected works.
Things Fall Apart
1. “The white man is very clever. He came quietly with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart,” Quoted in Things Fall Apart, 1958.
2. Eneke the bird: “Men have learned to shoot without missing their mark and I have learned to fly without perching on a twig”. Quoted in Things Fall Apart, 1958.
3. “Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life,” Quoted in Things Fall Apart, 1958.
4. “Okonkwo stood looking at the dead man. He knew that Umuofia would not go to war. He knew because they had let the other messengers escape. They had broken into tumult instead of action. He discerned fright in that tumult. He heard voices asking: “Why did he do it?” Quoted in Things Fall Apart, 1958
No Longer at Ease
5. “You cannot plant greatness as you plant yams or maize. Who ever planted an iroko tree — the greatest tree in the forest? You may collect all the iroko seeds in the world, open the soil and put them there. It will be in vain. The great tree chooses where to grow and we find it there, so it is with the greatness in men,” No Longer at Ease, 1960.
6. “A man to whom you do a favor will not understand if you say nothing, make no noise, just walk away. You may cause more trouble by refusing a bribe than by accepting it,” No Longer at Ease, 1960.
7. “When there is a big tree small ones climb on its back to reach the sun,” No Longer at Ease, 1960.
Arrow of God
8. “When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.” Quoted in Arrow of God, 1964.
Anthills of the Savannah
9. “While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” Quoted in Anthills of the Savannah, 1987.
10. “Charity …is the opium of the privileged,” Quoted in Anthills of the Savannah, 1987.