The Voice of the Lion: Remembering Chinua Achebe’s Literary Crusade

Evan Swensen
3 min readFeb 21, 2024

“Until the lions have their historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Chinua Achebe’s piercing words resonate with the power of authorship and history’s narratives. Achebe, a titan of African literature, not only penned narratives from the continent’s heart but also challenged the world to consider the stories untold, the histories unwritten. This piece weaves through the life of a man who wrote to ensure the lion’s roar was heard, and history was truthful to all its voices.

The backdrop of Achebe’s important work, Things Fall Apart, was not just the pre-colonial Nigeria but also his confrontation with the single-story narrative of Africa. At university, he felt the sting of reductionist portrayals of his culture and history. This struggle and his education fueled a fire in Achebe to rewrite the African story. Things Fall Apart was more than a novel; it was a battle cry against the imperial narrative, a tome that sought to restore dignity to the Igbo he knew, loved, and belonged to.

Achebe’s life was also defined by a profound relationship with his nation, Nigeria. His work A Man of the People prophetically anticipated a coup to plunge his country into chaos. This political turmoil and civil war period marked a phase of deep introspection and prolific writing for Achebe as he sought to make sense of the burgeoning crisis through his works. His pen became his weapon, his stories a solace for a tumultuous nation.

Achebe’s stories wove the fabric of a new identity for post-colonial societies. Through his works, he introduced characters like Okonkwo and themes of cultural clash that resonated globally. His writings influenced societal norms by challenging the stereotypes and preconceptions held by Africans and the Western world. Establishing the Heinemann African Writers Series, which he advised, was pivotal in bringing African voices to the forefront of world literature.

Chinua Achebe’s legacy is a testament to the power of the pen. His works have not just shaped the literary landscape but also profoundly affected the hearts and minds of readers around the globe. He championed a narrative sovereignty for Africa, where lions tell their tales. Achebe’s journey reminds us that writing is not merely an act of creativity but a force capable of altering the course of history and empowering the voiceless.

Let the reader take a leaf from Achebe’s book of life and be inspired to harness words’ might. Explore the depths of Things Fall Apart or Arrow of God to begin understanding the profound narratives Achebe has gifted to the world. Let each person find their inner lion, their story to tell, and may they write with the conviction that their words can change the world.

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Evan Swensen

Book publisher, editor, author, Author Masterminds charter member, founder of Readers and Writers Book Club, and bush pilot.