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September 24, 2008 (REVISED October 2, 2008)

Chinua Achebe's Novel "Things Fall Apart" is Subject of Nov. 3 Program at the Library of Congress

Through his fiction and non-fiction works, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has sought to repair the damage done to the continent of Africa and its people as a result of European colonization. This is best exemplified in his most famous novel "Things Fall Apart," one of the first African novels written in English to achieve national acclaim. Set in the 1890s, the novel deals with the impact of British colonialism on the traditional Igbo society in Nigeria. Published in 1958 – just two years before the end of a century of British rule in Nigeria – the novel celebrates its 50th anniversary of publication this year.

To mark this milestone, on Monday, Nov. 3, the Library of Congress’s African Section will host a day-long program titled "Fifty Years of Chinua Achebe’s Celebrated Novel 'Things Fall Apart.'" A symposium will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Room 119 of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C.

Following the symposium, "An Evening with Chinua Achebe" will feature the author reading from his celebrated work at 6 p.m. in the Montpelier Room (LM-619) of the Library’s James Madison Building, located at 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Signed copies of the 50th anniversary edition of "Things Fall Apart" will be on sale. This will be followed by a reception to celebrate Achebe’s 78th birthday.

The program, which is free and open to the public, will be sponsored jointly by the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division and the Center for the Book in collaboration with the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa; Howard University’s Department of African Studies and Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center; and TransAfrica Forum. Seating is first come, first serve; those wishing to attend are encouraged to RSVP to achebe@loc.gov.

Following readings from the novel by District of Columbia Public School students, the symposium will feature two 90-minute panels: "Reconsideration of Chinua Achebe’s 'Things Fall Apart'" and "African Literature in the 21st Century: Reflections from Africa and the African Diaspora."

Distinguished guest panelists include R. Victoria Arana, graduate professor of English at Howard University; Mbaye Cham, chair of the department of African Studies at Howard University; Philip Effiong, director of Academic Research and Information at the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa and adjunct associate of English at the University of Maryland University College; Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University; Amadou Kone, professor of French and Francophone Studies at Georgetown University; Gwen Mikell, director of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; Renee Poussaint, veteran network journalist and senior fellow at the University of Maryland Academy of Leadership; Jeanne Maddox Toungara, graduate professor of history at Howard University; and Eleanor Traylor, chair of the department of English at Howard University.

The symposium’s luncheon keynote address will be given by renowned African scholar Ali A. Mazrui, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and director of the Institute of Global Cultural at Binghamton University, State University of New York. The closing keynote address will be given by Ama Ata Aidoo, Ghanian novelist, playwright and scholar.

Throughout the day, a special exhibit titled "Chinua Achebe: A Celebration," featuring items from the Library’s African collections, may be viewed in Room l13 in the Thomas Jefferson Building. A film titled "Things Fall Apart," based on the book, will also be on continuous view.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages. The African and Middle Eastern Division furthers this mission as the Library’s center for the study of some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. For more information on the division and its holdings, visit www.loc.gov/rr/amed/.

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PR 08-172
09/24/08
ISSN 0731-3527

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