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This interview is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

In Conversation with Chinua Achebe Brenda Lyons
brenda lyons: I’d like to begin with a question of your beginnings, your parents, even grandparents: who are they and how have they influenced your writing?

chinua achebe: I think the best thing would be to begin with my parents; I didn’t know my grandparents on either side. My parents were Christian converts, among the early Christians from the Igbo people. My father was one of the evangelists of the church missionary society; and he went to college, which the mission had set up at the beginning of this [i.e. the twentieth] century. While he was a student there, he met my mother, so she converted, too; and they were married in 1909. That was part of my original background – an Anglican, Protestant, Christian family. We read the Bible, sang hymns, and went to church and Sunday school. In addition to the Christian community there was a non-Christian community in the villages, because not everybody became a convert; and so when I was growing up, you saw both sides. We belonged to the Christian side. We tended to look down on the heathen, pagan half, as we called them. It wasn’t a bitter, unduly hostile relationship at the stage when I was growing up. I think a certain level of accommodation had been reached between the converts and others.

At what point in your personal development did you begin to be interested in the other side?

Actually, quite early. I can’t put a date to it because I wasn’t sure what was happening, except I knew ...


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