Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
I had never heard of the author Chinua Achebe before his novel Things Fall Apart was book of the month at my book group. It was then I discovered how important this author’s work had been to Nelson Mandela during his years of imprisonment. Chinua Achebe was born in Ogidi, Anambra, Nigeria on November 16, 1930. He died relatively recently on March 21, 2013.
The author, Chinua Achebe, was a novelist, poet, professor at Brown University (a private Ivy League research university in Providence, Rhode Island, United States) and also a critic. He is best known for this, his first novel, Things Fall Apart that was published in 1958. It is the most widely read book in modern African literature.
Achebe was raised by Christian parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria. He excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for this book.
Things Fall Apart, tells two overlapping stories, which centre around Okonkwo who is a “strong man” of his Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace within his tribal world. In its classical purity of line and economical beauty this story provides the reader with a powerful fable about the eternal conflict between individuals and society.
The second story is as modern as the first is ancient. It is this, I think, that elevates the book to a tragic plane. It concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. I suppose this happened throughout the African continent.
These two stories are perfectly harmonized, and are modulated by an author with an awareness capable of encompassing both the life of nature and human history. Although I would not have picked this book off a shelf, I enjoyed Things Fall Apart because it gave me insight into a culture that I did not know about before I read this book and made me think closely about the human condition. I highly recommend Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.