Literature

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

things fall apart

Having recently blogged about the ‘literary canon’ and what has historically been excluded from it, a fellow blogger raised a pressing question: what about non-English books? And, more to the point, what about non-European/North American literature?

Inspired by this issue, and in tribute to the recent passing of one of Africa’s greatest writers, I wanted to write a bit about Chinua Achebe’s first and well-loved novel: Things Fall Apart.

Okonkwo is a great warrior; his fame is far-reaching. Never to show weakness, he even kills the prisoner of a neighbouring village who has become like a son to him. But, after a fatal accident in which he kills a clansman, Okonkwo and his family are exiled for seven years. Whilst they are in exile, Okonkwo is brought news that some intruders, including white man, have come to his village. They build a church. By the time of Okonkwo’s return, the village as he knew it has completely changed.

Things Fall Apart is a captivating, beautifully crafted novel which powerfully captures a moment of colonialism. And this brings us back to that question of language – as an imperial language, can English truly express the reality of the multifarious experiences of Africans?

This, of course, is not a new question. Whether or not African authors should write in English has been a subject of fierce debate, particularly between Chinua Achebe and Kenya’s Ngugi Wa Thiong’o who, having previously written in English, now writes mostly in Gikuyu.

Things Fall Apart, however, was written in English and is a powerful and important book, one I would highly encourage you to read.

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8 thoughts on “Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

  1. Unfortunately I failed to actually read this book during my college world lit course. However, when I picked it up a few years ago and finally did read it I found it unbelievably powerful. Achebe’s work actually encouraged me to intentionally read books by non-English writers. This book’s impact still haunts me today.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share you views. I absolutely agree – I did actually read this on my Uni global lit module, though I hope that so-called ‘global lit’ will start to be more of the focus and less of an ‘add on’ in literature courses!

  2. I have discovered that this is available in E Book form so I will download it. It also seems to be part of a trilogy. I wondered whether you have read the other parts. It sounds an interesting read. One reviewer described it as difficult but worthwhile!

    • I believe there’s a sequel called ‘No Longer at Ease’ which picks up from the grandson on Okonkwo and a third book called ‘Arrow of God’ which is again about the same villages – I haven’t read them yet, unfortunately. I would recommend downloading the e-book! The prose can seem fairly stark, and the subject is deeply moving, so I suppose it can be a difficult read, definitely worthwhile. Thanks again for your contributions, as ever!

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