Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Marriage is a Private Affair" by Chinua Achebe

"Marriage is a Private Affair" by Chinua Achebe (1956, 8 pages)

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two, March 12 to March 22.   All you need do is post on one short story by an Irish author and send me a comment or and e mail and I will include it in the master post at the end of the challenge

When I saw that Amy of Amy Reads was hosting a reading event on October 1 in honor of Nigerian Independence Day I wanted to participate.   I have posted on a number of short stories by Nigerian writers in conjunction with reviews I have done on stories short listed for the Caine Prize.

Chinua Achebe is the "dean" of contemporary African literature.   Born in Nigeria into a Christian Ibo family in 1930, his book Things Fall Apart (1958) is the most read ever book by an author born in Africa and is a classic of post colonial literature.   I have posted on him before when I did a second post on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in which I compared his and Edward Said's attitude toward whether or not Heart of Darkness was, as Achebe claimed and Said denies, a deeply racist work.

"Marriage is a Private Affair" opens when a woman living in Lagos asks her fiance if he has written his father to tell him of their impending marriage.   The woman thinks his father will be very happy over the news.  The man knows his father will not want him to marry a woman who is not an Ibo and it is also the custom for the parents to arrange marriages for their children.   He has not told his wife yet but he has gotten a letter from his father saying he has found a perfect wife for him.

The woman feels that surely the father will not be so prejudiced as to reject her just because she is not from his tribe.   The man goes to visit his father to ask him for forgiveness for marrying the woman he loves.   The father repudiates the son and the marriage saying he is making a horrible mistake.  The man marries anyway and the woman is a wonderful wife.   The son asks the father to accept her over and over and the father totally rebukes him and at one point tells the son he is dead as far as he is concerned.   Eight years go by.   Everyone sees the woman is a great wife.    She keeps a perfect house and is the wonderful mother to two sons.

One day the father receives a letter from his daughter in law.   At first he wants to tear it up but something compels him to read it.   In it the daughter in law pleads with him to allow his grandsons to meet him and asks him to play a part in their lives.   The old man fights with all his will to reject this idea.   Then the man's heart is filled with shame and remorse for what he has done.    He goes to sleep that night dreaming of the soon to come day when he will regain not just his son but a wonderful daughter and two grandsons who will idolize him.

"Marriage is a Private Affair"  is an emotional story.   The prose is simple and hauntingly beautiful.   I felt in sympathy with all three of the main characters, even the stubborn father.  

Mel u


Tea said...

One of my favorite authors is Chiuna Achebe. Decided this after reading THINGS FALL APART. I think it's a trilogy. Would luv to read the other two books. Thanx for the article.

@parridhlantern said...

An author I'm aware of yet have not yet got to, although this is merely a matter of time, as what I've heard is all good.

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

I teared up just reading the summary! Sounds like a beautiful read.

ds said...

Thanks for the wonderful introduction to this story. I enjoyed Things Fall Apart very much, and do agree that Mr. Achebe is the "dean" of African literature.

Mel u said...

Tea-thanks very much for your comment as always-

Parrish Lantern-he is a very important writer, I think

Kate-thanks so much for your comment-it is a very moving story

ds-thanks so much for your comment as always

Iwaya said...

Just discovered your blog---like the author gallery at the top, so unshamedly a book lover! As for the short story you have reviewd, I had no idea Chinua is also an intriguing short story writer, certainly will be looking for this!

Mel u said...

Iwaya-thanks for your kind remarks and your visit-

Madeleine said...

Thank-you for your review. I have a couple of novels by Chinua Achebe yet have not been curious enough to start reading one of them, now I will :)

Wanda said...

Hi Mel u! Wanda here! I've just added myself to the 500+ followers you already have, if it will make any difference :-D Thanks for following mine, too! I haven't read marriage is a private affair but it sounds really good, with interesting an itneresting moral lesson :-D I'm thinking if I will add it to my TBR, it's so long already! I've read though Achebe's And Things Fall Apart, and it was pretty good! Parang ang galing niya to have written such a book at such a young age :-D

Mel u said...

Madeline-thanks so much for your comment and visit-I will look forward to reading your thought on his longer works

Wanda-I am very glad we are now mutual followers

CHE said...

I really need to read more Achebe, especially Things Fall Apart. This story sounds so touching.

Song said...

I haven't read anything by Achebe as yet. This story sounds rather appealing. It seems to echo situations we hear of and come across so often within our society and community. Most often it is the fathers of a girl or boy who make things so hard because they want to stand by tradition. I've so often heard fathers say that a daughter or son is dead to them only because they marry outside of the community or religion...

Buried In Print said...

I've collected a couple of his books at booksales this autumn, but no short stories yet. This one, however, will get nudged up the TBR list, because I'm currently obsessing about stories/books of letters. Not just the letters themselves, but stories driven by the writing of sounds like this one would be a perfect fit!

Pakko Gujarati said...

chodya a story lakhi ane ahi bhenchod a story na ak gand jeva quote par aakho paragraph banavo padyo as a part of assignment.... bhenchod kadiyo chinu..!!

Wakbul said...


My tribute to the Legend Chinua Achebe
When I heard that one of the men I respect the most (Prof. Chinua Achebe) has passed on, I was not in a
hurry to comment on the matter because to give one’s parting words to a legend like Achebe one’s
words must be chosen carefully and respectfully.
I fell in love with Achebe through his works most notably “things fall apart” “no longer at ease” &
‘Anthills of the savannah’. On reading his works I knew instantly this was a genius a work and since then
i paid special attention to the legend. I have said it many times and I continue to say that I consider
Chinua Achebe the greatest writer of his time in Africa and beyond. His magnum opus “things fall apart”
remains a timeless classic till tomorrow.
I remember when I heard about his last work “There was a country” I was shocked that the legend was
still writing at such an advanced age. I could not wait to hold a copy of the book. Reading the book was
quite interesting. It is the most accurate historical record of the civil war I have come across though I
must also say that the author was highly ethnocentric. After reading the book I remember saying that it
sounded like the voice of a man trying to empty his head before passing on the great beyond. I
perceived from the book that Achebe was trying to offload emotions long locked within him least he be
guilty of taking his voice on the matter to the grave.
I remember a few of his words
1. “Things fall apart was a story yearning to be told and I was only lucky to be the one to tell the
story” - Chinua Achebe
2. “If you do not like someone’s story, write your own” - Chinua Achebe
3. “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were
amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers and our clan
can longer act as one. he has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen
apart” - Chinua Achebe, Things fall apart
4. “Charity is the opium of the privileged” - Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the savannah
5. “Nobody can tell me who I am” - Chinua Achebe
6. “If I hold her hand she says ‘don’t touch’
If I hold her foot she says ‘don’t touch
’but when I hold her waist-beads she pretends not to know” - Chinua Achebe, things fall apart
7. “When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat left for him, he tells you not to
worry he has brought his own” - Chinua Achebe
8. Writing has always been serious business for me. I felt it was a moral obligation. A major
concern of the time was the absence of an African Voice. Being part of the dialogue meant not
only sitting at the table but effectively telling the African story from an African perspective. –
Chinua Achebe, There was a country
9. “I had very little at my disposal to protest with, so the strongest statement I could make was to
turn down the honor of commander of the federal republic which I was awarded.” – Chinua
Achebe, There was a country
Quoting him will have no end because Achebe was a Man of many deep words.
I respect him because he was an excellent literary authority. He has a unique writing style and his words
leaps with authority from the pages of books into the minds of the reader. From his works I have learnt
to find my words in my own style without copying the pattern of any man. My first published work will
soon be out and Achebe remains my literary motivation.
He was a man that has received every professional accolade yet he remained humbled and he shocked a
nation when he rejected a prestigious national award because he felt he could not collect such an award
in clear conscience.
On his death, I say May the legend rest on. No one can say when Achebe will truly die because his works
will remain with us for a long time to come. I am not saddened by his death because he lived the life of
an achiever. In life I respected Chinua Achebe and in death My great respect still remains for the legend
- Wakbul

Pebbles said...

I’m impressed. Very informative and trustworthy blog does exactly what it sets out to do. I’ll bookmark your weblog for future use.


Piper said...

thank you for putting this up such a really great site. Stimulating me to read much more.