"Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father".
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a classic of world literature. Since it's publication in 1958 this critically acclaimed novel has been translated into 50 languages, been read by millions and is taught in high schools and colleges worldwide. The book is set in Nigeria during the late 19th century in the years just prior to the arrival of the missionaries and colonialism which would end the culture and customs of the Igbo community.
Chinua Achebe has said that in writing Things Fall Apart he was partly responding to novels like Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Achebe wanted people to know that there was a vibrant and worthwhile culture in rural villages like Umuofia. He does this beautifully in Things Fall Apart.
But Achebe doesn't sugar coat life in Umuofia. Some of the customs can be quite violent and women are definitely second class citizens. The central character in Things Fall Apart is Okonkwo. He is a leader in the village, admired for his strength and courage. Okonkwo's life has been determined by his intense desire not to be like his father, a man he regards as weak and idle. Okonkwo is a man with a fierce temper. His wives and children are afraid of him. But change is coming to Umuofia and Okonkwo is powerless to stop it.
"There were many men and women in Umuofia who did not feel as strongly as Okonkwo about the new dispensation. The white man had indeed brought a lunatic religion, but he had also built a trading store and for the first time palm-oil and kernel became things of great price, and much money flowed into Umuofia. And even in the matter of religion there was a growing feeling that there might be something in it after all, something vaguely akin to method in the overwhelming madness"
It can be hard to convey in a review how brilliant this novel is, except to say that from the very first page I knew I was holding something special in my hands and that feeling carried through right up till the end of the book. I highly recommend Things Fall Apart.
I didn't realize this book was published that long ago. I've been aware of it for quite awhile, but haven't ever really known what it was about. I need to add it to my list of classics I want to read. Love your review!ReplyDelete
Thanks Lark. I highly recommend it and I wasn't sure when I began the book what I would think but sometimes from the very first page you know that a book is special. It's the writing and Achebe's story and the customs and culture of Umuofia is fascinating too.Delete
I am glad you reviewed this book, Kathy. It is on my classics list so I know I will get to it sometime, and I have heard it is a very good and worthwhile read. But it is always good to have that confirmed.ReplyDelete
Hi Tracy, I really think you will like it. I know I did. The writing is excellent and the story itself about life in Umuofia is very interesting too.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you liked this classic. I have not read it yet -- but if I like Africa like I do - I went there in 1990 for a few weeks - then I really should read this important book.ReplyDelete
I think you will really like this and particularly if you have been to Africa. As I understand Things Fall Apart is a best loved novel in Africa and the writing is wonderfulDelete