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Hear Chinua Achebe Discuss Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2014 | by


Achebe at the fiftieth anniversary of Things Fall Apart. Photo: Angela Radulescu

Last week we brought to light a few videos of George Plimpton we’d found on the original version of our Web site, circa 1996. Today we have another highly apropos discovery from those days: audio from an unused portion of the Art of Fiction No. 139, an interview with Chinua Achebe conducted for our Winter 1994 issue. In this clip, Achebe, who died last year, discusses the legacy of none other than Martin Luther King Jr. A transcript follows:

Yes, I think certainly, in my view, that Martin Luther King is an ancestor. And although he died at the age of thirty-nine, this is something we do not often remember: how young he was when he was cut down. But his achievement was such that some who lived to be a hundred didn’t achieve half as much. So he does deserve that status, that standing. If he were in my country, he would be worshipped … I did not meet him, unfortunately, and I think one of the reasons was what I have just said: that he died too young. He was thirty-nine. Gandhi, with whom he is often compared, had not even returned to India at thirty-nine; he was still studying. We are thinking not about a sportsman, who can achieve his peak at eighteen; we are thinking of a philosopher, a thinker, who had to mature into action. I have been lucky in the past few years to be invited, again and again, to speak on his day—two years ago at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and then last year at the Smithsonian, so I’ve become something of an expert on Martin Luther King.




  1. Eze Paulinus | January 20, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Chinua Achebe would always speak to the minds of the people that want to listen and act on what truthfulness and examplified leadership and personal doggedness on matters of social and moral life. Martin Luther Jr was a man of doggedness who achieved a great fit, days not withsand. My continent, Africa; my country, Nigeria; and my people, the Igbo race must now establish the Chinua Achebe Legacy and Literature Libraries all over.

  2. ojuade semiu | January 21, 2014 at 2:08 am

    This are Great icon who believe that there action or inaction will definitely have either positive or negative impact on their pple. Respect to a great icon.

4 Pingbacks

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  3. […] (it’s actually on January 15th, but we have a national holiday on the next nearest Monday). Listen to Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, critic, discuss King briefly. It’s easy to forget, as […]

  4. […] Here’s an audio snippet from the Paris Review in which Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe reflects on the legacy of MLK. […]

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