CHINUA ACHEBE: In my new book, There was a Country-A Personal History of Biafra, I point out that when a number of us [i.e. African writers] decided to pick up the pen and make writing a career, there was no African literature as we know it today. There were many that preceded my time, but still, the numbers were not sufficient. And so I had no idea when I was writing Things Fall Apart whether it would even be accepted or published. All this was new- there was nothing by which I could gauge how it was going to be received.
In those days one had very few avenues to get published…we had very few choices. My first novel was rejected by a number of publishers before providence led it into the hands of Alan Hill at Heinemann after Donald McRae, another Heinemann executive with extensive experience in Africa encouraged Heinemann to publish the novel with a powerful recommendation: “This is the best first novel I have read since the war.” So, you can tell that I had a good beginning and was only too pleased to have Heinemann publish the work. Later, Alan Hill and James Currey and I developed the African Writers Series (I served as first General Editor for the first one hundred titles). The African Writers Series ended up publishing many of the well-known writers of the era from Africa. In many ways, without the intervention of Alan Hill and Heinemann, many of the writers from that generation may not have found a voice.