Ben Okri, 1959 - Nigerian novelist, Ben Okri was born in Minna to Grace and Silver Okri. After his birth, they moved to England so his father could study law. At the age of seven, his family returned to Nigeria and his father practiced in Lagos where the people couldn't afford normal legal fees. His childhood was influenced by the Nigerian civil war. He was constantly being withdrawn from schools so most of his education was at home in Lagos. After failing to be placed in a university, Okri began writing articles on social and political issues. Most of them were not published, but he began writing short stories based on these articles and they began finding their way into women's journals and evening papers. In 1978, he moved back to England where he studied comparative literature at Essex University but was forced to leave without a degree because of a lack of funds. He was a poetry editor of West Africa and worked also for the BBC. At nineteen, he finished his first novel "Flowers and Shadows" and it was published in 1980. The story attacked corruption in newly independent Nigeria and tells of a successful businessman whose jealous relatives make his life difficult. Okri's second novel, "The Landscapes Within" (1981), traces the adventures of a young, poor painter in Lagos. This novel was followed by two collections of short stories, "Incidents at the Shrine" (1986), and "Starts of the New Curfew" (1988). Several of the stories tell of the Biafran War from a child's eyes. The novel "The Famished Road" (1991) tells the story of a character who must choose between the pain of mortality and the land of the spirits. Okri's next novel, "Songs of Enchantment" (1993), continued with the mythical and poetical view of the world. "An African Elegy" (1992), is a collection of poems with classical themes. Okri has won several awards, which include the Booker Prize (1991), the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Africa (1987), the Paris Review Aga Khan prize for fiction, the Chianti Rufino-Antico Fattore International Literary Prize, and the Premio Grinzane Cavour.
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria. He studied English, history and theology at University College in Ibadan from 1948 to 1953. After receiving a second-class degree, he taught for a while before joining the Nigeria Broadcasting Service in 1954. He was working as a broadcaster when he wrote his first two novels, and then quit working to devote himself to writing full time. Unfortunately his literary career was cut short by the Nigerian Civil War. During this time he supported the ill-fated Biafrian cause and served abroad as a diplomat. He and his family narrowly escaped assassination. After the civil war, he abandoned fiction for a period in favor of essays, short stories, and poetry. His works include Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, A Man of the People, Anthills of the Savannah, and There Was a Country. He also wrote four children's books including Chike and the River and How the Leopard Got His Claws. In 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize for his "overall contribution to fiction on the world stage." He also worked as a professor of literature in Nigeria and the United States. He died following a brief illness on March 21, 2013 at the age of 82.