The 50th anniversary issue of the Paris Review is out, with an introduction by the late George Plimpton. The issue has work by Norman Mailer, Don DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen, Edna O’Brien, Ian McEwan, among many others. From the archives, they have an interview with Chinua Achebe. When asked to talk about what inspired him to write, Achebe answers:
I think the thing that clearly pointed me there was my interest in stories. Not necessarily writing stories, because at that point, writing stories was not really viable. So you didn’t think of it. But I knew I loved stories, stories told in our home, first by my mother, then by my elder sister — such as the story of the tortoise — whatever scraps of stories I could gather from conversations, just from hanging around, sitting around when my father had visitors. When I began going to school, I loved the stories I read. They were different, but I loved them too. (…) When I began going to school and learned to read, I encountered stories of other people and other lands. In one of my essays, I remember the kind of things that fascinated me. Weird things, even, about a wizard who lived in Africa and went to China to find a lamp . . . fascinating to me because they were about things remote, and almost ethereal.
Then I grew older and began to read about adventures in which I didn’t know that I was supposed to be on the side of those savages who were encountered by the good white man. I instinctively took sides with the white people. They were fine! They were excellent. They were intelligent. The others were not . . . they were stupid and ugly. That was the way I was introduced to the danger of not having your own stories. There is that great proverb, that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail, the bravery, even, of the lions.
They also have an article from the archives on the friendship and feud between Edmund Wilson and Vladimir Nabokov.