Monday, July 30, 2012

Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' Translated Into Persian

Translated into Persian by Ali Hodavand, Things Fall Apart a novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has been released in Iran.

 Things Fall Apart is an English-language novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe published in 1958. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, and one of the first African novels written in English to receive global critical acclaim.

















Chinua Achebe
It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. The title of the novel comes from William Butler Yeats's poem "The Second Coming".
The novel depicts the life of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion in Umuofia—one of a fictional group of nine villages in Nigeria, inhabited by the Igbo people (archaically, and in the novel, "Ibo"). It focuses on his family and personal history, the customs and society of the Igbo, and the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the Igbo community during the late nineteenth century.The novel is studied widely in Europe and North America, where it has spawned numerous secondary and tertiary analytical works. It has achieved similar status and repute in India, Australia and Oceania. Considered Achebe's magnum opus, it has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. Time Magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. The novel has been translated into more than fifty languages, and is often used in literature, world history, and African studies courses across the world.The Persian translation of Things Fall Apart has been released in 1650 copies by Jeyhoon publications.


Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria in 1930. He was raised in the large village of Ogidi, one of the first centers of Anglican missionary work in Eastern Nigeria, and is a graduate of University College, Ibadan. His early career in radio ended abruptly in 1966, when he left his post as Director of External Broadcasting in Nigeria during the national upheaval that led to the Biafran War. Achebe joined the Biafran Ministry of Information and represented Biafra on various diplomatic and fund-raising missions. He was appointed Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and began lecturing widely abroad. For over fifteen years, he was the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. He is now the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and professor of Africana studies at Brown University.

Chinua Achebe has written over twenty books – novels, short stories, essays and collections of poetry. His latest work There was a country – A personal history of Biafra will be available from Penguin publishers in September. Achebe has received numerous honours from around the world, including the Honourary Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as honourary doctorates from more than forty colleges and universities. He is also the recipient of Nigeria's highest award for intellectual achievement, the Nigerian National Merit Award; the Peace Prize of the German Book trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels) in 2002; the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction in 2007; and the Gish Prize in 2010.

Soyinka’s Utterance Against Me Is “Aggravated Libel” – Maja-Pearce

Interview With Adewale Maja-Pearce

BY YEMI ADEBISI




















Wole Soyinka


How would you describe your experience so far in Nigeria’s book industry?

I’m right now a consultant for Evans. Evans bought over Nelson Publishers and they want to develop together a literary series. I told them we shouldn’t leave the foreign publishers to be publishing Nigerian writers. Some of these old publishing houses publish textbooks for schools. We are ready to publish six papers every year. Instead of waiting for other series, let’s publish the first two so we would generate interest. We would begin to launch our first papers in November at the Lagos Book Fair that is run by Toyin Akinosho. We have to make things happen in Nigeria. Apart from that I have a small publishing company since 2005 called New Gong. So that is really a small fascinating publishing house we have and we don’t physically publish books. We load up a book and then they print, sell it as Print On Demand (POD). We don’t have probably any physical book in Nigeria. If you want to buy it you have to go online to purchase the book. The only problem we have in Nigeria is distribution because in small developed country like South Africa and even in America, the publisher is not involved in selling the book. The publisher goes to train that we have so, so and so copies, bla, bla, bla. So the train has bookshops all over the countries and they will distribute it. So the publisher doesn’t know how they sell the books; we don’t have that in Nigeria.





















Adewale Maja-Pearce

Let’s talk about the POD you spoke about. Judging by probably what you have been able to put together, what would you advise an author that wishes to publish through such medium too?

Anybody can do it. If you simply go to our site, there is an icon in the site called ‘create space.’ When the book is ready you upload it, the cover and the inside pages. They will give you a file page so that every of your work will be filed. What you see about a week is your book on our site. We print and sell as requested. And it is a big advantage, a very big one.

There is this rumour that you have some personal grudges with Wole Soyinka over your comments in your review on one of his books. It was even gathered that you were exchanging abusive words publicly. Can you throw more light into this?

Grudge! No! I first met Soyinka shortly after he won the Nobel Prize because I used to work for a magazine in London called Index On Censorship. I was their African editor from 1983 to 1997. So, before I joined, Soyinka had already been published by them and also had written for them. He was familiar with the magazine. So when I joined, I told him, “I am the new African editor. I hope you will continue with us.” We have a means he used to send us materials; we had a good working relationship. The problem came when he published You Must Set Forth At Dawn. I was asked by the London Review of Books to review it. I didn’t like the book so I gave my reasons. So, when it came out people told me that Soyinka didn’t take it kindly with criticism. I was just working for a magazine anyway. 



Chinua Achebe

About a couple of years later, I wrote to him because I was working on JP Clark’s book during the time they were launching Femi Osofisan’s book on JP. I said “do you have any piece on what you said about JP Clark?” This was because Soyinka alleged that Clark had been going around telling everybody that he (Soyinka) when he was in detention, he was suffering from terminal syphilis. It was a big thing, of course they went to court and everything and Clark eventually withdrew from the case. I said to Soyinka, I’m engaged in JP book and I just want to know if you have further thought on your allegation. He said ‘no, no, no,’ he doesn’t have anything; that he stands by himself and that, by the way, “I am glad to get in touch with you.” He said he was willing to tell me that he had heard from so many quarters that I had written negative reviews of his book, that he hadn’t read it and he was not going to read it. I applied for a fellowship at the University of Nevada, United States of America with about $50 for one year nine month. I didn’t know that Soyinka was on the board. He said by the way I understand that you applied for this fellowship. So, I have to excuse myself for any consideration of your candidateship. So, I just wrote back to him that well, it was my fundamental human rights to say if I don’t like a book, that you yourself has reserved the right to say what you like about other people’s works. I know that censorship takes many forms. I said it was his choice to do whatever he had done. So, I was surprised when I read what Soyinka said about me. He called me “unscrupulous and unprincipled.” He said that, when they were celebrating Femi Osofisan that I wasn’t there and my book wasn’t there. But I have written about it. I was having my argument with JP, we are in court now. I sent him (Soyinka) a mail that unscrupulous and unprincipled stand like aggravated libel to me because you are telling me you are discouraging my work; you are calling my moral character into question. You give no proof. You just abuse. l don’t think that it is worthy of him. But what he said was aggravated libel. I would have gone to court but decided not to. It is not that I really have problem with Soyinka but he wants to have problem with me because he doesn’t like people saying negative things about his work. Greatest writers in the world write banned books from time to time. I don’t know what I should call him. Maybe, because the white-man gave him the prize, maybe he thinks he is a god. It is God that cannot be criticised. I wasn’t criticising him as a human; I was criticising the book I was given to review. It could be written by anybody but my review will be exactly the same and I did not make reference of him outside what he wrote in the book and in the process I was praising him that he was the most sophisticated writer in Nigeria because he wrote such a book like The Man Died during the civil war. 



J.P Clark

With that development, did that affect your sense of judgment on creativity? Were you humiliated?

Humiliated! No. I thought it was unpleasant.

What were your other reactions?

I was a bit shocked because it was too virulent, too personal and I thought it was unworthy...

But what exactly did you say was wrong with the book?

I said that basically it was an ego thing to show affection that he was in the revolving tragedy of Nigeria being a central figure. He was talking more on IBB and Obasanjo. His relationship with Femi Johnson; talking about how he was running around, being important, he said nothing about Femi Johnson which he was supposed to be writing about. It is boring. IBB invited him to his house because he won a Nobel Prize. IBB likes to hang around with intellectuals. You and Achebe carried yourselves to go and beg on behalf of Vatsa. IBB killed Vatsa. IBB sent his emissaries begging on his behalf and Soyinka forgave him. Do you know what I entitled the piece, "Our Credulous Grammarian". So you know, he became friendly with Obasanjo. In the book he keeps saying how Obasanjo humiliated him. Vatsa was a member of ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors). He was active in ANA; he drew all his people for ANA programmes in Abuja being the minister of Federal Capital Territory. He gave ANA plots of land, what happened to the land? One word from Soyinka, Clark, Achebe would solve the problem. You are all lobbying with these people. The guy killed Vatsa. It’s just to say okay, we want you to do something on this land. You know this thing we have in Nigeria, it is all about me, me, me. With Soyinka, the first Nobel Prize winner in Africa, don’t you think it comes with responsibilities? So, I think it is hypocrisy.


Ben Okri

Apart from Soyinka, do you think most great writers enjoy criticism?

Most of them don’t.

Have you had any encounter with any other writer in the same similitude?

Yes, Ben Okri. He doesn’t like being criticised. Maybe he thinks he is a god too.

Let’s look at the future of Nigerian literature. What do you think of it?

Nigerian literature is also even by itself problematical because I think the problem was the language. Hubert Ogunde formed his troop in the 1940. Do you know that there was an Igbo book published in the 1930 by one Peter Nwanna? I was asking myself that if Ogunde could in 1934 revive the tradition that went back to the Shakespeare’s mileage, why should Soyinka, a Yoruba man and a dramatist write only in English? So, I now went through all his interviews and I couldn’t find a concise answer. What I could find in one of his interviews was a contradiction, saying why should I be confined only to my own language?


That he rejected that. Well the population of Denmark is five million and Yoruba land alone is about 30 million. In 1950, Ogunde was banned by Akintola for two years from practicing his profession, from earning his living because he was getting Yoruba people, telling them what they needed to hear. Nobody banned any of these books here. They read them in London. If you are observing the whole things, you know how literature engineers the things that we practice, the concept of indirect rule are going to be extended. That is why we could take someone like Okonjo-Iweala to pack money and put it there because we are not politically independent. It doesn’t have any meaningful sense. Yoruba people tend to be proud of their tradition, culture and heritage. But where is the tradition? We have Hausa literature today. Though there is nothing wrong writing in English but do you know that we don’t have single Yoruba institute for Yoruba study. We don’t sponsor books written in Yoruba. Nobody could translate the books of this Yoruba writer for instance, Akinwumi Ishola to English and see what he is doing. Ishola said sometimes that let someone translate Soyinka’s books to Yoruba and see what Soyinka has taken from Yoruba culture.
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Interview conducted by Yemi Adebisi and published in Daily Independent of Monday, July 30, 2012. Reproduced here with permission.
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Police Officer Threatens To Shoot Michelle Obama

A Washington D.C. police officer who allegedly threatened to shoot the United States First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama, has been removed from his unit. He is being investigated by the Secret Service.  
The officer who reportedly issued the threat during a Wednesday July 11, 2012 morning roll call in the presence of his colleagues while they discussed threats against the Obamas has been reassigned to the  administrative section pending the outcome of investigations. A senior officer who heard him voice the threat had reported him to their superior.  

According the Washington Post, the officer "allegedly said he would shoot the First Lady and then used his phone to retrieve a picture of the firearm he said he would use" to show his colleagues.  

Before his redeployment, the officer worked as a motorcycle escort to White House officials and visiting dignitaries.  

Reports say the Secret Service is trying hard to downplay the incident.

“Pump the brakes on this one” a Secret Service official told NBC.

"We're aware of it and taking the appropriate steps," another official of the Service told msnbc.com. 

The name of the officer who issued the death threat is yet to be released by the Metropolitan Police Department.

There has not been any response from the White House on the incident.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Should Math Determine Who Can Read English In Nigerian Universities?

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye  

Great expectations are usually piled on our universities as very essential intellectual factories for the production of reliable human resources for achieving our lofty dreams and aspirations as a people. That is what it should be. Every year, the universities are expected to give the country quality graduates whose formal education and other forms of grooming ought to duly equip with sound intellectual, psychological and even ethical properties to assume very important and strategic positions in both private and public institutions for the advancement of national development.  






















Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

But what appears to be seriously in doubt now is whether the National Universities Commission (NUC), could still be considered a reliable ally in this aspiration, either because it has run out of quality ideas, or it is being savagely influenced by some unwholesome sentiments within its ranks to, in fact, brazenly sabotage this grand expectation.  It is tragically surprising that we have had to sit passively and watch a handful of men and women that constitute the NUC churn out a cocktail of clearly misguided policies whose only benefit is their ability to effectively erect uncrossable mountains before otherwise brilliant students and promote devastating mediocrity in the university system, with far-reaching implications to the larger society. While several local and foreign observers are bemoaning the quality of the graduates our universities are turning out these days, the NUC is busy compounding the problem by formulating policies that can only further devalue the degrees awarded in Nigeria.   

I wish to examine one of the most offensive and pernicious of these policies, and I would like to begin with an illustration.  A young girl who chose English Studies as a course of study sat for the last Unified Tertiary  Matriculations Examinations (UTME), and passed very well. She went to her university of choice, sat for the Post-UTME tests and performed brilliantly and was offered admission by the university. But when she packed her bags and went to the university to register in order to commence her programme, she met a brick wall. Even though that university had stated in the JAMB brochure that it required a pass in Mathematics to admit students to study English, she was now told at the departmental office that only a credit in Mathematics will qualify her for an admission. Okay, she would be considered if she had a credit in a science subject.  That is what the 'almighty' NUC has decreed.  


And so, despite her marvelous performance in English, Literature and other arts subjects, she is at home now, while those who managed to merely crawl above the pass mark in English but had a credit in Mathematics are there now studying English! And if she is unable to get the Mathematics eventually or her parents do not have the resources to take her to a university outside Nigeria whose curricula was drawn up by sane and progressive minds, that’s another great journalist, writer, artist, scholar, researcher, teacher, etc., brutally frustrated out of university education and consigned to the roadside by the NUC and its backers. Needless to add that many other brilliant youths like this girl will suffer the same fate in the various departments of Theatre Arts, Foreign Languages, History, Linguistics, etc., and the faculties of law across the nation just because of this outlandish condition placed before them by the NUC.  

Now, are we merely interested in just admitting all manner of students into the universities and giving them degrees after a number of years or do we have the future in mind? Who should be encouraged to study English, the person who is very good at the subject, or the person who manages to obtain a credit pass in it but does well in Mathematics? We know very well that it is only in very few cases that we have people who are very good at Mathematics and the sciences also excelling in English and other arts subjects. We are already complaining that the there are graduates of English and other arts subjects whose written and spoken English are so horrible that one feels very sad reading them.  

Chinua Achebe

Newspaper editors can readily tell you the amount of work they do on reports sent in by reporters these days to make them readable. It is no longer shocking to go to even a university and see a circular issued by a high ranking university staff riddled with unpardonable grammatical errors. Some of the young men and women graduating from the Law School these days write and speak semi-literate English. Instead of the fellows at the NUC to help in combating this malaise by encouraging square pegs to fit into square holes, they are, for self-serving reasons, formulating outlandish policies, usually wrapped with attractive covers, to further compound the problem. And if they are allowed to continue having their way, Nigeria may face the embarrassing situation of having judges in future writing court judgments in unreadable English, or law reports appearing in substandard grammar.  

And as today’s reporters graduate to tomorrow’s editors, one can only dread to imagine the kind of language that would convey the news, editorials and feature articles in Nigerian newspapers, or whether even literary works from Nigeria will still be intelligible to properly educated people. In as much as we want to encourage the study of science in this country for very good reasons which we need repeat here (and there are many candidates flooding the faculties of science annually), we must not use that as an excuse to frustrate the emergence of Nigeria’s future men of letters!   


Now this policy is already creating terrible problems in secondary schools, and I wonder how many people are taking note.  I never really knew the extent of the harm already done until recently, when a friend and I visited his son’s school.  My friend was given his son’s result sheet and even though his son had taken the first position in his class, my friend was a very sad man. Why? The poor boy had FAILED. It was boldly written in his result sheet. And the reason was that despite the fact he had scored very high marks in the other subjects which had earned him the first position in his class, he had failed Mathematics by just a few marks. And so, because of that, he had FAILED the examination for that term!  Wonderful! 

Now, somebody should please just tell me what on earth this kind of totally bankrupt and senseless policy is meant to achieve? In fact, I was so moved  that  I had to go and confront the principal of the school, and it was then I learnt that almost every school now in Nigeria is operating this policy as a fallout to the NUC policy on English and Mathematics.  Now, it is enough that Mathematics remains a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools, but  to pronounce that  a child had failed a terminal examination merely because he did not do well in Mathematics does grave damage to the psychology of such a child. Assuming the will of the child to continue in school is not sapped in the process by such a devastating verdict?  

Now, time has come for us to agree that we cannot all be experts in numbers, and that it amounts to inflicting grave damage on both the psychology of our youths and the society each time the NUC callously denies a child university education simply because such a child was created to be another Chinua Achebe instead of a Chike Obi! That is why we have various fields of study to cater for individual peculiarities and endowments. So, the NUC must be called to order and stopped from elevating what is clearly a misplaced passion to a destructive superstition. Indeed, I would be glad if anyone can come out to tell me how much Mathematics had contributed to turn Chinua Achebe into a global literary giant or earn Wole Soyinka a Nobel Prize? 

What one finds very annoying is that some of the fellows at the NUC and their cousins at the various Faculties and Departments churning out these obnoxious regulations would have ended their careers as roadside traders or artisans if such policies were operational when they themselves were admitted for degree programmes several years ago. I am also reminded that why Nigerian rulers have till now showed no interest in this totally backward policy is because their children are all studying abroad where such needless inhibitions are non-existent. That is really sad. Nothing kills a country like acute selfishness in its leaders.  

But, what is all this fetish about Mathematics, by the way? A school principal told me the other day that English and Maths constitute the core and the foundation of all branches of learning, and that once a child excelled in both subjects in secondary school, such a child would be adequately equipped to capture a degree in any discipline any day. Interesting argument, isn’t it? So, why don’t we take it a step further by immediately collapsing the dwarf wall between Arts and Sciences and then start compelling every child to take combined honours in, say, Physics and English, or Pharmacy and Theatre Arts, or even Mechanical Engineering and French,  and so on?  

Empty Classroom: Waiting For The Students The NUC
Is Unjustifiably Denying University Admission

I have also heard that too many candidates are applying for the few spaces available in our universities, and so this policy was put in place to significantly scale down the number of applicants. If at all this is true, then it is very unfortunate. If one million people, for instance, are applying to the read law or English, and the Department or faculty can only admit 300 students, the most sensible way to get the best qualified is to offer admission to the candidates who had performed better than others in the relevant subjects and not the irrelevant subjects! The same thing should also apply in reverse to those seeking admission to the Faculties of Engineering or Medical Sciences. I will be alarmed if these faculties deny admission to somebody who had excellent grades in the core sciences simply because he had a pass in English, but offer admission to the person who managed to obtain credits in the core sciences but had a distinction in English. Then we are preparing the ground for multiple, enduring disasters in this country which the NUC must be held solely responsible.  

It is possible that the ego of the nation’s “Mathematicians”, especially, within the ranks of the NUC and their friends, may have been overplayed here. Why the premium place given to English at the expense of Mathematics in the university admission process when both of them are compulsory subjects in the secondary and primary schools?, they may have reasoned. Well, the Federal Government must urgently save the future of this country from the destructive ego of a few men and women. English (for now) is the nation’s language of communication, and that is the only reason we insist that people pass it so that when they are in the classroom, they can at least understand their teacher. That is also the reason foreign universities (in English-speaking countries) insist on candidates obtaining good grades in TOEFL, before offering anyone admission. But what is the argument for Mathematics? Somebody should please tell me. 


Indeed, it is difficult not to also suspect that some clearly self-serving reasons are motivating this pernicious policy. In fact, the whole thing smells and tastes like a very clever stratagem for creating a very large market for the countless “Mathematics Made Easy” pamphlets which have flooded our markets. And one would not require a soothsayer to suggest that the advocates of this policy and their cronies may be among the happiest beneficiaries.  

The Federal Government must put a halt to this madness and restore sanity to the system by throwing this obnoxious policy into the nearest refuse dump. May be, too, the NUC is fast outgrowing its usefulness. Time may have arrived for its powers to be significantly abridged. Some might even be thinking that it should even be scrapped. Why not? I don’t mind the universities maintaining autonomous existence and formulating their individual admission policies without an NUC breathing down their necks. 
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