On March 21, 2013, the world lost a literary icon. Chinua Achebe, the acclaimed Nigerian author, died at age 82. I had heard much about Achebe, especially his views on presenting the African story in English, but I am ashamed to say that I had never read any of his novels. When my facebook was flooded with “R.I.P” and condolence posts about Achebe, I figured it was high time that I read Things Fall Apart which has been on my bookshelf for a few years now.
This mistake has now been amended.
Things Fall Apart is amazingly short, coming in at only 209 pages (Anchor Books, 1996), but packed with the life and times of Okonkwo, an Ibo man of the late nineteenth century. Okonkwo is a proud, stubborn, and violent man. Many of the vignettes that the reader is presented shows Okonkwo being driven to violence, but he is also shown to be a hard-working man.
This book is a story of man-hood, colonialism, and custom. There’s much talk of “kids these days” and how they’re not up to par with their ancestors—showing that that argument is ever-lasting. The book itself was inspiring when it was first written, one of the first to express anti-colonialism thoughts, but those only show up during the last third of the book.
Over-all, I’m glad I read this book, but I’ve read others that have expressed the opinions of colonial Africa so much more eloquently. It is a staple of the cannon, but should not be a person’s sole foray into African writing.