Author Chinua Achebe to Receive Mason Award at 2008 Fall for the Book

Posted: March 28, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

The Fall for the Book festival — Northern Virginia’s largest and oldest literary celebration — will present the 2008 Mason Award to Nigerian novelist, poet and critic Chinua Achebe.

His book, “Things Fall Apart,” has earned worldwide readership and profoundly influenced several generations of African novelists.

The Mason Award celebrates an author whose body of work has made extraordinary contributions to bringing literature to a wide reading public.

Achebe will read from his work and accept the award on Monday, Sept. 22, the second day of the 2008 festival.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s phenomenally successful first novel, which seems the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate the connections he’s made with readers around the globe and to recognize his lifelong commitment to younger writers and the world of literature,” says William Miller, executive director of the festival.

“Fall for the Book also commemorates a milestone in 2008 — our 10th annual festival. Welcoming such a distinguished author to this year’s program speaks to our continuing growth as one of the mid-Atlantic’s most significant cultural venues, and we look toward even more ambitious programming in our next decade.”

With more than eight million copies printed in English worldwide, and other editions published in more than 50 languages, “Things Fall Apart” has become the world’s most widely read African novel.

Achebe’s other novels include “No Longer at Ease” (1960), “Arrow of God” (1964), “A Man of the People” (1966) and “Anthills of the Savannah” (1987).

He has written several volumes of poetry, beginning with “Beware, Soul Brother,” a 1971 collection written in response to the Nigerian Civil War, and most recently, his “Collected Poems” in 2000.

Among his notable nonfiction is the controversial 1975 essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’”

His children’s books include “Chike and the River,” which addressed racism in depictions of African life.

Achebe served from 1962 to 1972 as the general editor of the African Writers Series, a British publishing initiative that introduced post-colonial African writers to the world. He helped found three literary magazines while teaching at the University of Nigeria.

Achebe has also taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is currently the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

In addition to Achebe, Fall for the Book’s 2008 festival features a wide array of nationally and internationally famous writers, including novelists and short story writers Richard Bausch, Charles Baxter, Sue Miller and Benjamin Percy; poets C.K. Williams and Kyle Dargan; and journalist and memoirist Scott Huler. More names are being added weekly.

Fall for the Book takes place Sunday, Sept. 21, through Friday, Sept. 26, on Mason’s Fairfax Campus and at select venues throughout Northern Virginia.

All events are free and open to the public. For updated information, be sure to bookmark www.fallforthebook.org.

Write to at