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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
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Feb 20, 08


I bought “Things Fall Apart” and was excited and eager to read it knowing that (1) it has sold millions and millions of copies since its debut in 1958, (2) has since stood as a symbol of a crown achievement of African literature, and (3) has sort of turned Chinua Achebe into a Hemingway of Africa. But as life has taught us many times before: great expectations come with greater disappointments. While “Things Fall Apart” never quite fell apart it never really took off either. But I should be more forgiving and gentler here considering that it is a debut novel written in the late ‘50s by a young African writer in a second language about his own native country Nigeria at the dawn of a new era—the birth of a free and independent Africa. Seen through this prism, "Things Fall Apart" was a remarkable attempt by Achebe to paint the story of Nigeria on the big canvas of Africa’s pre-and post-colonialism. Briefly, “Things Fall Apart” tells a story of the tragic rise and fall of a strong, masculine tribal man Okonkwo, a champion wrestler, a successful farmer, the son of an effeminate, failing father, and the husband of three wives and a half dozen children, who vowed to take charge of his own destiny but instead lost it to a deep fear of failure and frailty. Major themes thread through the book – the tension between the old and the new, tradition and modernism, tribalism and colonialism. The fate of Africa is like the fate of Okonkwo himself – tragic but defiant. "Things Fall Apart" is an easy read—the writing is lucid and simple — and the book provides great insights into Africa’s history though as a work of fiction it didn’t leave much of an imprint on me. Maybe Achebe’s another "so-called" masterpiece “Arrow of God” could do what “Things Fall Apart” didn’t—lift me up and take me away.
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