African Writers of Today
Episode Number
Chinua Achebe
Producing Organization
National Educational Television and Radio Center
Transcription Center, London
Contributing Organization
Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
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Episode Description
As this program begins the viewer sees three men walking through one of the halls of the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos. They are: series host Lewis Nkosi, Wole Soyinka, and the featured guest, Chinua Achebe. The interview, which focuses on the craft of Achebe himself, begins as Soyinka and Achebe discuss a carving of Ikenga, a symbol of manhood in Ibo society. Soyinka likens the spirit of Achebe's character Okongkwo from the novel Things Fall Apart to that represented by the carving. Achebe says he poured the essence of the aggressiveness and showy masculinity, traditionally so admired by the Ibo society into Okongkwo, and had his character's ultimate downfall represent the shortcoming of a culture which places a premium on brute intransigence. Is one critical assessment of Achebe's work - that in his books he deliberately attempts to avoid passing moral judgment - a true one?, ask Nkosi. Not at all, replies the novelist. Achebe says that while he presents a balanced picture of the Ibo society in Things Fall Apart, including its many admirable attributes (its music and art,"...the poetry of life, the simplicity... the communal way of sharing in happiness and in sorrow..."), and while he does not attempt to draw a moral lesson on every page, the total effect at the end of the book - the disintegration of his hero - illuminates a very strong moral position on the author's part. After dismissing an evaluation of his work as being "unrelieved competence" rather than "genuine artistic inspiration" by pointing out that Things Fall Apart was written as a single draft with no polishing, Achebe goes on to discuss the influences which have shaped his artistic life. He speaks of the village, of the colorful tribal festivals, and of the way the old people talked. Coming from his own background, he points out, his fiction is the result of direct observation, not research. He also refers to the negative influence of Joyce Cary's Mr. Johnson which angered him deeply when he was a student at the University College Ibadan. Achebe also briefly discusses: his recent trip to the United States, where he met with the Harlem Group of writers - among them Langston Hughes and John Killens - and with a number of white writers including playwright Arthur Miller; his strong opposition to "people preaching from a position of ignorance," a position which, he claims, is characteristic of most present day critics of African literature; and his new novel Arrow of God. In Arrow of God which concerns the relationship between an African god and a village priest, Achebe feels he is handling a group of more complex themes than he has in the past, and that he is progressing in the direction of a more highly developed treatment of character. The author sees the Nigerian novelist's position in his society as one of growing influence. As a literary form the novel is comparatively new in the country - only ten years old - but if book sales are any indication, Achebe feels the novel has caught on. The three writers discuss the form of the novel as an "alien" form and consider its relation to the African writer. Is it possible, they wonder, that African traditions of storytelling could combine with the European novel traditions and evolve a new African novel form? (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Other Description
That Africa is a simmering continent is no surprise to anyone these days. The number of African nations which have, during the past few years, stood up to declare their independence and their desire to be counted in international trade circles and forums of political arbitration in an unprecedented phenomenon in history. And, as part of the continent's adolescence in its rapid evolution into modernity, there are the current touchy events in the east African countries of Zanzibar, Tanganyika, Kenya, and Uganda; the continued racial suppression in South Africa; and the recent wooing your of Chou En-lai. These are political situations and economic situations - and, in these areas, the American public is reasonably well informed. But a simmering continent is not all politics and it's not all economics. There is an emerging culture as well, and, in this case, a body of literature which demands to be called "African." For all of the information that comes to the United States from the African continent, so little is known about their writers. Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What are their reactions to the cultural revolution which surrounds them? For whom are they writing? Are they turning to the forms of the tribal oral traditions or are they rejecting them? How do the individual writers react to the philosophy of "Negritude?" What is the influence of current European literature and of the literature of the American Negro on their works? And what is the reciprocal influence of African novels, stories, plays and poems on the literature of these other cultures. In African Writers of Today, National Educational Television is giving US audiences an opportunity to find out about the contemporary literature of Africa and to meet some of the most significant African figures in the literary world. Devoted primarily to interviews with the writers themselves, the 6 half-hour episodes were filmed in Ghana, Nyasaland, The Cameroon Republic, Nigeria, Senegal, England, and France, the home settings of the featured personalities. African Writers of Today is a 1964 production of National Educational Television in collaboration with the Transcription Center, London. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Talk Show
Race and Ethnicity
Media type
Moving Image
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Guest: Achebe, Chinua
Guest: Soyinka, Wole
Host: Nkosi, Lewis
Producer: Dor, Henry A.
Producing Organization: National Educational Television and Radio Center
Producing Organization: Transcription Center, London
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1833873-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 16mm film
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: B&W
Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive
Identifier: [request film based on title] (Indiana University)
Format: 16mm film
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Chicago: “African Writers of Today; 4; Chinua Achebe,” 1964-00-00, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “African Writers of Today; 4; Chinua Achebe.” 1964-00-00. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: African Writers of Today; 4; Chinua Achebe. Boston, MA: Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from