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

Monday, January 16, 2012

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1959, 209 pages, 268 KB)

 Before today I have posted on two short works by Chinua Achebe.   One was on one of his short stories, "Marriage is a Private Affair"   and once on an essay he wrote about Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness in which I compared his view that The Heart of Darkness is a deeply racist work to the very contrasting opinion of Edward Said.   

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 am very glad I can now move this book out of the TBR category.

Things Fall Apart is Achebe's first novel.   It is set in Nigeria and opens just before the colonial take over of the area begins.   It is a very interesting and unsentimental look at life among the people of the region.   It does not glorify life in pre-colonial Nigeria but portrays it as a place just like any other place on earth at the time, full of the weakness of humans and the suffering brought on my natural and man made tragedies.  

The central character, a man we meet in his late teens or so, Okonkwo is a self made man, his father does not really help him as all as he should have.   Through a foolish mistake, he ends up losing everything he has and is driven, along with his wives, into exile.   In lots of ways Okonkwo is a very cruel man and there are real cruelties among the customs of the people of the time, such as the leaving of new born twins to die as it is felt they are somehow evil.    He is very abusive toward his wives as appears to be the normal mode of behavior.   

Achebe does not introduce European colonists into the work until it is nearly 75 percent completed.    We first learn of them through the reaction of residents to others who have been converted to Christianity.   

Things Fall Apart is an interesting well written  book.  I think perhaps it is read as much for its cultural importance as for any intrinsic merit it might have.   I am glad I read it. 

Mel u


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Thanks for bringing this book and author to me notice. I have just saved THINGS FALL APART on my desktop and commenced reading. I also found that Chinua Achebe's ANTHILLS OF THE SAVANNAH was a finalist for the 1987 Booker Prize.

cessie said...

Sounds like a very interesting read. I planned to read a bit more African lit this year so I will be on the lookout for this one, I like to learn when reading as well :)

Kelli Nørgaard said...

I bought this book YEARS ago but never took the time to read it, so thank you for the reminder!!!! Getting it out now! :-)

Fred said...

Mel u,

I saw this as a two-part novel.

The first part is a depiction of the villagers'way of life as it has been for many centuries and the second part the disintegration of their culture resulting from the appearance of the British and the christian missionaries.

I recommend it highly.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I very much enjoyed this one. I appreciated the simplicity of the language as it made the message that much stronger.

Risa said...

I intend buying myself a copy of Achebe's trilogy. I really want to read his works. I'm currently reading Alex Haley's Roots, and I'm finding such a lovely experience. This is the first time I'm reading anything by a black African writer (save Toni Morrison), and I'm finding it a novelty. I'm still only somewhere in the beginning of the novel, but I am amazed at how objectively he portrays the life of an African tribe -- not sentimentality or sensationalising. He's so matter of fact. I love it!

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I remember reading this for school but I don't remember much about it. Oddly I remember the introduction of European colonists much more strongly even though that is not a big part. I think it would be good for me to reread this now as an adult.

Mel u said...

Prashant C. Trikannad-I have now acquired an e text of Anthills of the Savannah and one other of his works and hope to read them also-not sure when yet

cessie-When Things Fall Apart would be a very good first novel in the ares of works by African authors-thanks so much for your comment and visit

Kelli Nørgaard-I hope you enjoy it and will be very interested to read your opinion on it

Fred-I think I have the secon part also and am looking forward to reading it-thanks as always for your visits and comments

Sam (Tiny Library)-I agree-thanks as always for your comments and visits

Risa-I saw the TV movie of Roots many years ago-it is very moving

Bookworm1858 the introduction of the colonists kinds of hangs over the whole book somehow

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

One of my favorite African authors. Thanks.