Chinua Achebe will celebrate his eightieth birthday in November this year. I was present at his sixtieth anniversary celebrations in Nigeria and at his seventieth in upstate New York. Between the two celebrations his life was profoundly changed by an appalling road accident that left him in a wheelchair. The essays in this collection were written on either side of that catastrophe, but they display an extraordinary consistency. Indeed, there is much unintentional cross-referencing between them. What we do not find here is any self-pity for the situation in which a random broken axle of a car en route for Lagos airport left him partially disabled, only weeks after the grand state-backed festival honouring him when he became a sexagenarian.
There was once a Sunday colour supplement series called ‘Heroes and Villains’. I always hoped I might be invited to contribute to it. It would be pointless to castigate a villain – my choice anyway would have been the owner of the newspaper in question – but I