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No 9 Army Film & Photographic Unit via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

15 Unexpected Military Operation Codenames

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No 9 Army Film & Photographic Unit via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Winston Churchill had no time for silly military codenames. In a 1943 wartime memo on the subject of coining operation names, he cautioned: “Do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way, and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called ‘Bunnyhug’ or ‘Ballyhoo.’” Understandable. However, military operations—British or otherwise—haven’t always followed these principles, and some of their names seem downright ridiculous. Although there’s rarely a (public) explanation of why the weird names were assigned, that doesn’t make them any less amusing. Here are just a few of the more memorable.

1. OPERATION DRACULA

Operation Dracula was the Allied South East Asia Command’s plan to reconquer the Burmese capital of Rangoon near the end of WWII. Part of the Burma Campaign, the operation was led by British and Indian forces via sea and sky to wrest the region from Japan, which had invaded in 1942. Begun in 1944 as an outgrowth of the earlier Plan Z, the mission was abandoned—maybe because the sun came up?—but then reinstated the following year. The British and Indian forces encroached on Rangoon as monsoon season began, only to find that the Japanese had skipped town a few days earlier, whereupon it was occupied by the Indian 26th Division without opposition.

2. OPERATION POWER GEYSER

Bush delivering his second inaugural address via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
This one was a counterterrorism effort that involved a group of 13,000 top-secret commandos who served as military security to support the 2005 U.S. presidential inauguration of George W. Bush. The elite troops carried state-of-the-art weapons as they lurked in the shadows of the White House and the Capitol while the inauguration went down. A Power Geyser, by the way, is a fighting move from the video game series Fatal Fury, where character Terry Bogard blasts the ground with his fist, thereby devising a field of explosive energy around him that sends his opponents flying.

3. OPERATION ALL-AMERICAN TIGER

3rd Armored Regiment Coat Of Arms via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Tigers are pretty boss by themselves, but what if you had not only an American one, but an ALL-American one? The U.S. military ended up giving this name to the November 2003 Iraq War mission to search and clear farms and villages around the Euphrates River in the Northern Iraqi town of Al -Qaim as they tried to capture a handful of insurgent leaders. They ended up detaining 12 men as a result, including a few who were on the American “Most Wanted” list. Not bad.

It’s fun to make up origin stories here, but this codename is actually no mystery. It stems from the nickname for the 82nd Airborne Division—“All-American”—and the “Tiger” squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, both of which launched the first phase of the plan. And for what it’s worth, it was specifically the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment from within the 82nd who worked on this plan, and those guys have their own nickname: “The Devils in Baggy Pants,” plucked from the diary of a disgruntled Wehrmacht officer who was killed in WWII.

4. OPERATION BEASTMASTER

Wathiq Kuzaie via Getty Images

 
From the name, this one sounds like it absolutely, positively must have happened in the ’80s, but actually it was not until 2006 that Operation Beastmaster cleared three neighborhoods in the Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya—an area itself codenamed “IED Alley East.” Even though none of them used scimitars or were able to telepathically communicate with animals like in the movie, U.S. troops worked in tandem with the Iraqi Army to great success, leading the latter to uncover seven weapon caches as well as a deposit of roadside bomb-crafting supplies. The mission also resulted in the capture of an (unnamed) high-value target. Sounds like that beast got mastered.

5. OPERATION MINCEMEAT

Photograph of the fictitious girlfriend Pam. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Guess the British military managed to sneak this strangely named mission under Churchill’s nose somehow. Operation Mincemeat involved a decoy corpse—a possible (if gross) clue for the name’s origin. As Allied forces were preparing an attack on Sicily in 1943 during World War II, they wanted to convince the Germans that they were headed to Greece and Sardinia instead. So they took the body of Welsh laborer Glyndwr Michael, who’d died from eating rat poison, and planted some phony top-secret papers describing a plan to attack Greece and Sardinia on it, as well as a photo of a fake girlfriend, then let it float to an area off Spain where a particular Nazi agent was located. It worked perfectly. The plan was initially part of a memo containing possible ideas to lure German U-Boats toward minefields and was titled #28: A Suggestion (not a very nice one).

If this sounds like something from an old-timey detective pulp, well, there’s a reason for that. The scheme originally came from the mind of Ian Fleming, who later authored the James Bond books, back when he was an assistant to the head of British Naval Intelligence. Fleming confessed that he’d borrowed the idea of a dead body with false papers from a spy novel he’d once read.

6. OPERATION VIKING SNATCH

Exactly this, only in Iraq several years later. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Despite what you might guess given some slang connotations here, Operation Viking Snatch—which attempted to stop a rash of weapons-smuggling during the Iraq War—was named and carried out within the last decade. The operation took place in September 2007. The name almost certainly derives from a snatch strap, which is a kind of tow rope used to pull bogged-down vehicles out of sand or mud, with Viking Offroad being a company that manufactures them—so, a Viking snatch strap. However, it can probably be assumed that whoever picked this codename was quite aware of its additional entendres and used it anyway.

7. OPERATION BEAVER CAGE

If you thought the last one sounded crass, there’s also this one. Operation Beaver Cage was a helicopter assault launched by the U.S. Marines upon on a Vietcong base in the very populous Que Son Valley, south of Da Nang. Lasting from late April through mid-May of 1967, the Marines walked away with 66 captured Vietcong soldiers and the operation was considered a success. No word on where exactly the name came from, but it’s worth pointing out that although beavers are native to North America and Eurasia, there are none to be found in the wild in Vietnam.

8. OPERATION SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD

Spc. Cal Turner in Baghdad. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Although it sounds like it’s an edict by the street captain to drive slowly when kids are at play, this endeavor—along with its little sister, Operation Safe Market—was actually a 2007 effort to make residential neighborhoods, marketplaces, and areas of traffic congestion safer for Iraqis to live and work in during the Iraq War. Basically, they were cracking down on car bombs, with additional measures to decrease general sectarian violence. Not much of a secret codename, but it’s kind of adorable.

9. OPERATION GRIZZLY FORCED ENTRY

Chris Servheen via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
The “forced entry” part makes sense, anyhow: In the summer of 2004, U.S. soldiers went out on a counterinsurgency raid in Iraq under this codename, busting into private homes to search and seize high-value targets. The guys they were looking for were suspected of attacking coalition forces, and the search was conducted in Najaf, a city just south of Baghdad. The grizzly bit is less clear, but the Americans might just have been flattering themselves.

10. OPERATION MAGNETO

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Almost 20 years before the superhuman mutant of the same name was DIY-ing magnetic fields in the 1963 debut issue of X-Men, Allied forces were using this word during WWII to refer to a 1945 conference among Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, and FDR. While not strictly a military operation, the three leaders met in Yalta, USSR, in February of that year to discuss how to secure an unconditional surrender by the Germans (and also how to divvy up all the post-war geographical spoils). Operation Magneto, along with Operation Cricket, the prep meeting that happened few days prior, were collectively known as Operation Argonaut.

11. OPERATION TOENAILS

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
A part of the Solomon Islands, the isle of New Georgia was invaded by the WWII Allied forces over the summer of 1943, and they called it Operation Toenails. The reason behind the name seems to have been lost to history. This mission was the first major Allied offensive exacted in the Solomon Islands since New Georgia’s neighbor, Guadalcanal, had been secured the previous February, and it led to the subsequent capture of the rest of the Solomons, concluding with the island of Bougainville. This invasion was part of the two-pronged, equally-oddly named Operation Cartwheel, the group of attacks that the Allied troops conducted in order to first isolate and then descend upon the Japanese military base at Rabaul, on the Solomon island of New Britain.

12. OPERATION CHATTANOOGA CHOO-CHOO

The operation probably looked just like this. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
The plan here was to systemically bomb German railways in 1944. Seems as though someone was like “Okay, we’re bombing trains. Okay, what’s a train-themed name that we can use that doesn’t actually have the word train in it? Or railway? In any known language?” “I’ve got an idea, sir. The Nazis will have no idea what a ‘choo-choo’ is.” This was a successful mission, by the way—the railways were extensively damaged, forcing Germany to scramble for laborers to repair them when there was already a huge labor shortage. Glenn Miller would be proud.

13. OPERATION FREQUENT WIND

Official Marine Corps photo via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Transpiring at the end of April 1975, Operation Frequent Wind was the wrap-up phase of the evacuation of American civilians and at-risk Vietnamese in Saigon prior to the Fall of Saigon, wherein the North Vietnamese Army showed up and took over. Hours after the mission ended, North Vietnamese tanks came crashing through the gates of the Independence Palace, and President (of two days) Duong Van Minh surrendered, signifying the end of the Vietnam War. One can guess at the codename’s origin here, considering it was a helicopter-based evacuation and that it was also tremendous—81 helicopters transported 7000 people to offshore aircraft carriers over the course of two days, making it the largest helicopter evacuation on record.

14. OPERATION LION CUB

The Lion of Babylon via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Operation Lion Cub had two very important missions on December 21 and 24 of 2004—to commandeer a convoy full of toys to the villages of Wynott, Al Alam, and Al Owja in Iraq, where soldiers would hand them out to Iraqi children. The codename is perhaps a nod to the ancient symbol of Iraq, the Lion of Babylon. Family Readiness Groups in the U.S. and Germany had collected the toys over several months as part of a Christmas donation drive, and the operation received a very positive response from both the kids and their parents.

15. OPERATION GIMLET VICTORY

US Army forces in Kirkuk, Iraq in 2003. SSGT James A. Williams via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
There’s not a whole lot of info out there on Operation Gimlet Victory, other than that it happened in 2004 during the Iraq War. There were a handful of other U.S. counterinsurgency operations with gimlet in their names—Operation Gimlet Crusader, Operation Gimlet Silent Sniper—that were staged in the city of Kirkuk during the same year, so one can assume that this one was, if not the victorious denouement of those operations, at least related to them. The name likely refers to the tool kind of gimlet and not the cocktail kind, but it still sounds like what happens after you slog through your tedious Friday at work and finally make it to happy hour.

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25 Things You Might Not Know About Home Alone
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20th Century Fox

On November 16, 1990, what appeared to be a fun-filled little family yarn about a kid left to his own devices at Christmastime and forced to fend off a couple of bungling burglars, became an instant classic. Today, no holiday movie marathon is complete without a viewing of Home Alone, the movie that turned Macaulay Culkin into one of the biggest kid stars of all time. And while you may be able to recite its dialogue line for line, here are 25 things you might not know about the John Hughes-penned picture. So settle in and enjoy, ya filthy animals. 

1. WITHOUT UNCLE BUCK, THERE’D BE NO HOME ALONE.

The idea for Home Alone occurred to John Hughes during the making of Uncle Buck, which also starred Macaulay Culkin. Always game to play the precocious one, there’s a scene in which Culkin’s character interrogates a potential babysitter through a mail slot. In Home Alone, Culkin has a similar confrontation with Daniel Stern, this time via a doggie door.

2. THE ROLE OF KEVIN WAS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR MACAULAY CULKIN.

But that didn't stop director Chris Columbus from auditioning more than 100 other rascally pre-teens for the part. Which really was all for naught, as Culkin nailed the role.

3. MACAULAY WASN’T THE ONLY CULKIN TO APPEAR IN THE FILM.


20th Century Fox

Macaulay;'s younger brother Kieran also landed a part as Kevin’s bed-wetting cousin, Fuller. Though the film marked Kieran’s acting debut, he has since gone on to build an impressive career for himself in movies like The Cider House Rules, Igby Goes Down, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

4. CASTING CULKIN TAUGHT CHRIS COLUMBUS A VERY IMPORTANT LESSON.

Since Home Alone, Columbus (who also wrote the scripts for Gremlins and The Goonies) has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s premier family-friendly moviemakers as the director of Home Alone 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, and two movies in the Harry Potter franchise. But one lesson he learned from Home Alone is that when you agree to work with a kid actor, you’re also agreeing to work with his or her family.

“I was much younger and I was really too naive to think about the family environment as well,” Columbus told The Guardian in 2013. “We didn't know that much about the family at the beginning; as we were shooting, we learned a little more. The stories are hair-raising. I was casting a kid who truly had a troubled family life.” In 1995, Culkin’s parents, who were never married, engaged in a very public—and nasty—legal battle over his fortune. 

5. THE FILM IS A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In its opening weekend, Home Alone topped the box office, making $17,081,997 in 1202 theaters. The movie maintained its number one spot for a full 12 weeks and remained in the top 10 until June of the following year. It became the highest grossing film of 1990 and earned a Guinness World Record as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever domestically.

6. THE MOVIE’S UNPRECEDENTED SUCCESS LED TO ITS TITLE BECOMING A VERB.


20th Century Fox

In his book The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood? And Other Essays, two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman admitted that the unexpected success of Home Alone contributed a new phrase to the Hollywood lexicon: to be Home Aloned, meaning that other films suffered at the box office because of Home Alone’s long and successful run. “More than one executive said to me, ‘My picture did 40, but it would have done 50 if it hadn’t been Home Aloned,’” wrote Goldman.

7. IT SPAWNED MORE THAN A SEQUEL.

While all of the main, original cast members reprised their roles for Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (with Columbus again directing a script by Hughes), the success of the original led to a full-on franchise, complete with four sequels, three video games, two board games, a novelization, and other kid-friendly merchandise (including the Talkboy). 

8. POLAND LOVES THE MCCALLISTERS.

Showings of Home Alone have become a Christmas tradition in Poland, where the film has aired on national television since the early 1990s. And its popularity has only increased. In 2011 more than five million people tuned in to watch it, making it the most watched show to air during the season. 

9. THE MCCALLISTER HOME HAS BECOME A MAJOR TOURIST ATTRACTION.


A Syn via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois, the kitchen, main staircase, and ground-floor landing seen in the film were all shot in this five-bedroom residence. (The dining room and all other first-floor rooms, with the exception of the kitchen, were shot on a soundstage.) In 2012, John and Cynthia Abendshien, who owned the home when it was used as one of the film’s locations, sold the property for $1.585 million.

10. KEVIN’S TREE HOUSE WAS NOT PART OF THE DEAL.

Kevin’s backyard tree house was not originally part of the property. It was constructed specifically for the movie and demolished once filming ended. 

11. ALL OF THE FILM WAS SHOT IN THE CHICAGO AREA.

Though the main plot point is that that McCallister family is in Paris while Kevin’s back home in Illinois, the production was shot entirely within the Chicago area. The scenes supposedly set at Paris-Orly Airport were shot at O’Hare International Airport. And those luxurious business class seats they’re taking to Paris? Those were built on the basketball court of a local high school—the same school where the scene in which Kevin is running through a flooded basement was filmed (the “basement” in question was actually the school’s swimming pool). 

12. ROBERT DE NIRO TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF HARRY LIME.


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As did Jon Lovitz. Then Joe Pesci swept in and made the part his own. Bonus fun fact: The character is a slight homage to Orson Welles. (It was the name of Welles’ character in Carol Reed’s The Third Man.) 

13. JOE PESCI GOT ALL METHOD ON MACAULAY CULKIN.

In order to get the most authentic performance possible, Joe Pesci did his best to avoid Macaulay Culkin on the set so that the young actor would indeed be afraid of him. And no one would blame the young actor for being a bit petrified, as he still bears the physical scar from one accidental altercation. “In the first Home Alone, they hung me up on a coat hook, and Pesci says, ‘I’m gonna bite all your fingers off, one at a time,’” Culkin recalled to Rule Forty Two. “And during one of the rehearsals, he bit me, and it broke the skin.” 

14. PESCI WASN’T USED TO THE WHOLE “FAMILY-FRIENDLY” THING.

Considering that Pesci’s best known for playing the heavy in movies like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino, it’s understandable that he wasn’t quite used to the whole family-friendly atmosphere on the set of Home Alone—and dropped a few f-bombs as a result of that. Columbus tried to curb Pesci’s four-letter-word tendency by suggesting he use the word “fridge” instead. 

15. DANIEL STERN HAD A FOUR-LETTER WORD SLIP-UP, TOO.


20th Century Fox

And it wasn’t cut out of the film. He utters the word “s***” when attempting to retrieve his shoe through the doggie door (look for it at the 55:27 mark on the DVD). 

16. IN REAL LIFE, HARRY AND MARV MAY NOT HAVE SURVIVED KEVIN’S ATTACK.

BB gun shots to the forehead and groin? A steaming hot iron and can of paint to the face? A flaming blowtorch to the scalp? The Wet Bandits endure an awful lot of violence at the hands of a single eight-year-old. So much so that neither one of them should have been walking—let alone conscious—by the end of the night. In 2012, Dr. Ryan St. Clair diagnosed the likely outcome of their injuries at The Week. While a read-through of the entire article is well worth your time, here are a few of the highlights: That iron should have caused a “blowout fracture,” leading to “serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.” And the blowtorch? According to Dr. St. Clair, “The skin and bone tissue on Harry's skull will be so damaged and rotted that his skull bone is essentially dying and will likely require a transplant.” 

17. THE ORNAMENTS THAT MARV STEPS ON WOULD CAUSE THE LEAST AMOUNT OF DAMAGE.

"Walking on ornaments seems pretty insignificant compared to everything else we've seen so far,” said Dr. St. Clair. “If I was Marv, I'd be more concerned about my facial fractures.” Fortunately, the "glass" ornaments in question were actually made of candy. (But just to be on the safe side, Stern wore rubber feet for his barefoot scenes.)

18. THE TARANTULA ON STERN’S FACE? YEP, THAT WAS REAL.


20th Century Fox

At one point, Kevin places a tarantula on Marv’s face. And it was indeed a real spider (Daniel Stern agreed to let it happen—but he’d only allow for one take). What wasn’t real? That blood-curdling scream. In order to not frighten the spider, Stern had to mime the scream and have the sound dubbed in later.

19. JOHN CANDY WRAPPED IN ONE DAY.

But what a long day it was: Twenty-three hours to be exact. Candy was a regular in many of John Hughes’ movies, and Gus Polinski—the polka-playing nice guy he plays in Home Alone—was inspired by his character in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. 

20. KEVIN’S OLDER SISTER IS A JUDO CHAMP.

Two years after appearing in Home Alone, Hillary Wolf—who played Kevin’s older sister Megan—landed the lead in Joan Micklin Silver’s Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even. She also appeared in Home Alone 2, but hasn’t been seen on the big screen since. But there’s a good reason for her absence: In 1996 and 2000, she was a member of the Summer Olympic Judo team for the U.S. 

21. DON’T BOTHER TRYING TO FIND ANGELS WITH FILTHY SOULS.

The Jimmy Cagney-like gangster movie that Kevin channels as his inspiration throughout Home Alone? Don’t bother searching for it on eBay. It’s not real. Nor is its sequel, Angels With Even Filthier Souls, which is featured in Home Alone 2. 

22. OLD MAN MARLEY WASN'T IN THE ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY.

Kevin’s allegedly scary neighbor, who eventually teaches him the importance of family, wasn’t a character in the original script. He was added at the suggestion of Columbus, who thought the film could do with a stronger dose of sentimentality.

23. THE LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO BENEFITED FROM THE MOVIE’S SNOWFALL.

When filming of Home Alone wrapped, the production donated some of the artificial snow they had created (the stuff made from wax and plastic) to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It has since been used in a number of their productions.

24. MARV WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE GOTTEN A SPINOFF.

Greg Beeman’s 1995 film Bushwhacked, which stars Daniel Stern as a delivery guy on the run after being framed for murder, was originally intended to be a spinoff of Home Alone. The storyline would have been essentially the same: after giving up a life of crime, Marv would have been framed for the same murder.

25. IF YOU BELIEVE THAT ELVIS IS STILL ALIVE, THEN YOU MIGHT BELIEVE THAT HE IS IN HOME ALONE.

No hit movie would be complete without a great little conspiracy theory. And in the case of Home Alone, it’s that Elvis Presley—who (allegedly?) died in 1977—makes a cameo in the film. Yes, that’s right. The King is alive and well. And making a living as a Hollywood extra.

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5 Things You Should Know About Chinua Achebe
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Often referred to as the “father of African literature,” author Chinua Achebe was born in Ogidi, Nigeria on this day in 1930. Though he passed away in 2013, Google is celebrating what would be his 87th birthday with a Google Doodle. Here are five things you should know about the award-winning writer.

1. HE HAD PLANNED TO BE A DOCTOR.

Though he was always an avid reader and began learning English at the age of eight, Chinua Achebe hadn’t always planned to become a beacon of the literary world. After studying at Nigeria’s prestigious Government College (poet Christopher Okigbo was one of his classmates), Achebe earned a scholarship to study medicine at University College in lbadan. One year into the program he realized that writing was his true calling and switched majors, which meant giving up his scholarship. With financial help from his brother, Achebe was able to complete his studies.

2. JOYCE CARY’S MISTER JOHNSON INSPIRED HIM TO WRITE, BUT NOT IN THE WAY YOU MIGHT THINK.

While storytelling had long been a part of Achebe’s Igbo upbringing in Nigeria, that was only part of what inspired him to write. While in college, he read Mister Johnson, Irish writer Joyce Cary’s tragicomic novel about a young Nigerian clerk whose happy-go-lucky demeanor infects everyone around him. While TIME Magazine declared it the “best book ever written about Africa,” Achebe disagreed.

“My problem with Joyce Cary’s book was not simply his infuriating principal character, Johnson,” Achebe wrote in Home and Exile. “More importantly, there is a certain undertow of uncharitableness just below the surface on which his narrative moves and from where, at the slightest chance, a contagion of distaste, hatred, and mockery breaks through to poison his tale.” The book led Achebe to realize that “there is such a thing as absolute power over narrative,” and he was inspired to take control of it to tell a more realistic tale of his home.

3. HE DIDN’T THINK THAT WRITING COULD BE TAUGHT.

Though he studied writing, Achebe wasn’t all too sure that he learned much about the art in college. In an interview with The Paris Review, he recalled how the best piece of advice he had ever gotten was from one of his professors, James Welch, who told him, “We may not be able to teach you what you need or what you want. We can only teach you what we know.”

I thought that was wonderful. That was really the best education I had. I didn’t learn anything there that I really needed, except this kind of attitude. I have had to go out on my own. The English department was a very good example of what I mean. The people there would have laughed at the idea that any of us would become a writer. That didn’t really cross their minds. I remember on one occasion a departmental prize was offered. They put up a notice—write a short story over the long vacation for the departmental prize. I’d never written a short story before, but when I got home, I thought, Well, why not. So I wrote one and submitted it. Months passed; then finally one day there was a notice on the board announcing the result. It said that no prize was awarded because no entry was up to the standard. They named me, said that my story deserved mention. Ibadan in those days was not a dance you danced with snuff in one palm. It was a dance you danced with all your body. So when Ibadan said you deserved mention, that was very high praise.

I went to the lecturer who had organized the prize and said, You said my story wasn’t really good enough but it was interesting. Now what was wrong with it? She said, Well, it’s the form. It’s the wrong form. So I said, Ah, can you tell me about this? She said, Yes, but not now. I’m going to play tennis; we’ll talk about it. Remind me later, and I’ll tell you. This went on for a whole term. Every day when I saw her, I’d say, Can we talk about form? She’d say, No, not now. We’ll talk about it later. Then at the very end she saw me and said, You know, I looked at your story again and actually there’s nothing wrong with it. So that was it! That was all I learned from the English department about writing short stories. You really have to go out on your own and do it.

4. HE WAS WARY OF MACHINES.

Though typewriters, followed by computers, were ubiquitous, Achebe preferred a “very primitive” approach. “I write with a pen,” he told The Paris Review. “A pen on paper is the ideal way for me. I am not really very comfortable with machines; I never learned to type very well. Whenever I try to do anything on a typewriter, it’s like having this machine between me and the words; what comes out is not quite what would come out if I were scribbling. For one thing, I don’t like to see mistakes on the typewriter. I like a perfect script. On the typewriter I will sometimes leave a phrase that is not right, not what I want, simply because to change it would be a bit messy. So when I look at all this … I am a preindustrial man.”

5. HIS DEBUT NOVEL REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST TAUGHT PIECES OF AFRICAN LITERATURE.

Achebe’s status as the “father of African literature” is no joke, and it’s largely due to his debut novel, Things Fall Apart. Published in 1958, the book—which follows the life of Okonkwo, an Igbo leader and wrestling champion—has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies and has been translated into 50 different languages. Even today, nearly 60 years after its original publication, it remains one of the most taught and dissected novels about Africa.

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