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Posts Tagged ‘Chinua Achebe’

No Slouch

April 7, 2015 | by

The widening gyre of heavy-handed allusions to Yeats’s “The Second Coming.”

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An undated photo of Yeats by the Bain News Service.

A recent Russia Today headline suggests that Europe is “slouching towards anxiety and war.” According to the title of Robert Bork’s latest best seller, the United States is Slouching Towards Gomorrah. A new book by W. C. Harris, an English professor, claims we’re Slouching Towards Gaytheism. A casual reader might wonder why the nations of the world have such terrible posture; is it that the earth is slouching towards bedlam? Have things fallen apart?

The only thing not doing any slouching these days is the “rough beast” in W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming,” the 1919 poem from which the phrase originates: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

But Yeats’s beast, it must be said, isn’t deteriorating or dying in its slouching, as the many references to the phrase would have you believe; rather, it slouches in steady, dedicated progress toward a goal. It’s actually a terrifying sight: the poem’s narrator intuits that the beast is coming to wreak some untold havoc. (At least one blog got this subtlety right in a headline about the 2012 election cycle: “Romney slouching toward GOP nomination.”)

“The Second Coming” may well be the most thoroughly pillaged piece of literature in English. (Perhaps Macbeth’s famous “sound and fury” monologue is a distant second.) Since Chinua Achebe cribbed Yeats’s lines for Things Fall Apart in 1958 and Joan Didion for Slouching Towards Bethlehem a decade later, dozens if not hundreds of others have followed suit, in mediums ranging from CD-ROM games to heavy-metal albums to pornography. These references have created a feedback loop, leading ever more writers to draw from the poem for inspiration. But how many of them get it right? Read More »

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Hear Chinua Achebe Discuss Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2014 | by

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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.

 

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Chinua Achebe, 1930–2013

March 22, 2013 | by

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“We live in a society that is in transition from oral to written. There are oral stories that are still there, not exactly in their full magnificence, but still strong in their differentness from written stories. Each mode has its ways and methods and rules. They can reinforce each other; this is the advantage my generation has—we can bring to the written story something of that energy of the story told by word of mouth. This is really one of the contributions our literature has made to contemporary literature.” —Chinua Achebe, the Art of Fiction No. 139

 

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Chinua Achebe Dies, and Other News

March 22, 2013 | by

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On the Shelf

September 14, 2011 | by

Portrait of Roald Dahl, 1954, by Carl Van Vechten.

A cultural news roundup.

  • William Sleator, a well-loved author of young-adult science fiction and fantasy, has died at sixty-six.
  • “Of course, buzzwords come and go. But it’s striking that 9/11 and its aftereffects have left almost no traces in the language of everyday life.
  • Walk a mile in J. K. Rowling’s boots.
  • “Rowling, who famously guards her privacy, is one of a number of prominent public figures expected to give evidence to Lord Justice Leveson’s judicial inquiry into phone hacking and media ethics and practices.”
  • In response to the BBC’s plans to cut short fiction, prominent authors embark on a tweetathon.
  • Not to be confused with the ambitious Sixty-Six Books Twitter project.
  • Chinua Achebe vs. 50 Cent.
  • A single Salinger sentence sells for $50,000.
  • The Amazon digital-book library marches on.
  • Happy ninety-fifth birthday, Roald Dahl.
  • A birthday appeal to save the late author’s writing hut is controversial.
  • The college experience, sans tuition.
  • Remembering comics author Del Connell.
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