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Award-Winning Nigerian Writer Talks to VOA

Nigerians are celebrating Wednesday’s news that novelist Chinua Achebe has won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. The prize – awarded every two years -- is worth $120,000 and is given for an author’s body of work. Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, is considered a classic.

VOA Hausa Service Chief Sunday Dare reached the 76-year-old writer in the upstate New York town of Annandale and asked for his reaction to the prize.

“I was very happy. I was pleased. It was a surprise, but a good, good surprise. It was almost like something that was required because I have had nothing but bad news from home. So this was a happy change from the rather dreary political events going on in Nigeria,” he said.

Speaking further on receiving the award, he said, “I have received awards and awards and awards fortunately through my career as a writer. And quite frankly I take them when they come. I don’t sort of live thinking about awards, especially after so many years of writing and awards. So, when this came it was welcome, most welcome.”

Asked whether this award is different from others he’s received, Achebe said, “For one thing, it’s given to a writer in consideration of the whole body of work that he or she has done. This is a bit unusual. Quite often there’s a kind of focus on one or two books.”

Considering the amount of material he’s produced, is there any particular book that means more to him than others?

“Every single book of mine has a special resonance for me because every one of them stands for something," he said. "What I mean is this. Take the first book, Things Fall Apart. Well, number one it was the first book. It was the first book I wrote. And so it stands for something, which no other book can possibly take from it. And the same way I can say more or less the same kind of thing about every other piece of work I’ve done. Each one of them means something to me, something which I value.”