Born on November 16, 1930, Albert Chinualumogu Achebe would eventually be known as the father of African literature, author of the most widely read book in modern African literature, Charles P Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature (Bard College), and David and Marianna Fisher University Professor of Africana Studies (Brown University). Paralyzed from the waist down after a motor vehicle accident in 1990, there was no stopping this man described by Jonathan Kandell as an “African Literary Titan.” The late Nelson Mandela wrote, “There was a writer named Chinua Achebe in whose company the prison walls fell down.” After an illustrious career, Achebe died in Boston in 2013, at the age of 82. To celebrate his birth month, I decided to write a review of his first and more famous piece of work, the world famous book called “Things Fall Apart.”
William Shakespeare wrote, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Things Fall Apart starts with the story of Okonkwo, a man who toiled from youth, overcame his unfortunate birth circumstances, achieved greatness, and gained the respect of all and sundry.
In the book, we learn about day to day life in pre-colonial Igbo land in Eastern Nigeria. They worked on the farm, they worshipped, and had their family units and extended relations. They laughed and loved, had law and order in their society, and found ways to have a lot of fun.
The reader is also introduced to the very sad story of Ikemefuna, a young lad who was forcibly taken from his home and would live in Okonkwo’s homestead. This unfortunate and innocent youth would ultimately be sacrificed for the sins of his father. This event, that Okonkwo was part of, would haunt him forever, and one might argue that karma found its way into his life eventually. Ikemefuna’s death also had a profound effect on Nwoye, the eldest son of Okonkwo. What he saw as unfairness in the culture and practices of his ancestors would drive him away, and he would become one of the earliest converts to the Christian faith as European missionaries arrived.
I like how Achebe draws the reader in, in such a way that one gets very attached to the flow of life in Okonkwo’s life and his village. When the Europeans arrive, the reader cannot help but feel a great sense of an unwelcome intrusion into a hitherto very functional society. There is a sense of things falling apart, a sense of a people having a new world imposed upon them.
If you have not encountered pre-colonial Africa yet, then this is the best introduction you could ever have. I highly recommend this book. Click here if you would like to buy a copy. I would very much like to know what you think about this book so please do get in touch! Click on ‘Follow’ at the bottom left to subscribe to my blog. Cheers!