Surrounded by symbols, donning his signature cap and spectacles, Chinua Achebe is pictured in front of a green banner decorated with icons of his most famous literary works in Thursday’s Google Doodle. The illustration honors the legacy of the renowned Nigerian writer on what would be his 87th birthday.
Widely regarded as the father of modern African literature, Achebe was an illustrious author whose work sought to reclaim Africa’s literary voice from Western control. Achebe rose to international prominence when he published Things Fall Apart at 28 years-old. Based on his own family heritage and upbringing, the story recounts the demise of an Ibo man in southeastern Nigeria under the oppression of 19th century British colonial rule. The book is now a classic and required reading for students, selling more than 20 million copies and translated into 57 different languages.
“In the end, I began to understand,” Achebe once wrote. “There is such a thing as absolute power over narrative. Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like.”
Achebe went on to publish several more works — ultimately winning the Man Booker Prize in 2007 — and then later became a professor at Bard College and Brown University. In 1990, a car accident in Nigeria paralyzed Achebe from the waist down. The writer passed away from illness nearly five years ago.