Saturday, January 6, 2007

Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe (A) 209pgs.

Reading this book has just reinforced my dislike for Conrad's Heart of Darkness. This is a beautifully written novel describing the introduction of Europeans and Christian missionaries to the Igbo clans in Nigeria. The story focuses on the life of one man, Okonkwo, a man of fear and anger who can not seem to break himself from the emotional bonds of being the son of a "lazy" man, despite gaining respect and status in his clan for his personal achievements. Achebe does an amazing job of writing in in a style that uses Western linguistic models insterspersed with proverbs, fables, and tales that portray the oral storytelling traditions of the Igbo people.

Which brings me to my continued disdain of Heart of Darkness. I have never liked this novel, and struggled with it when I read it for my post-colonial Lit class on Semester at Sea. At the time, my prof could not accept my critique of the novel as "rubbish". :) He also did not support my statement that it should not even be included in a post-colonial lit class, considering it was written during the colonization of the Congo, by a European. I did not like the fact that Africans speak in pidgin English in the book, which is why Things Fall Apart was a breath of fresh air. Achebe writes in a style that is simple, eloquent, and dignified, and I think this novel (and certainly, Achebe himself) helps to negate the stereotype of Igbo, Nigeria, and Africa as primitive, heathen, and savage.

Some pretty cool, and thought-proviking proverbs and quotes from the book:
-"Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten." (p.7)
-"Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble." (p.26)
-"There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts." (p.140)
-"It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming-its own death." (p.187)

And finally, the mention of the moon-play at the time of the full moon brought back some wonderful memories of my refugee friends in Australia. A Nigerian bloke started up a full-moon tradition in which we all gathered together around a bon-fire, under the full moon, sharing creative stories, and listening to the drums. It was a tradition he brought with him from his country, in which it was a joy to share. I was happy to see a similar tradition mentioned in the book, and could see, hear, and smell exactly what Achebe was describing.


Wendy said...

*nods* I agree 100% with your review! This book made one of my top ten reads for 2006. Wonderful stuff.

benzaala said...


Anonymous said...

i honestly think we have different opinions on or choices of books but i do see how someone with a taste for this type of literature could find it a good read. but me i thought the book was frustrateing im not sure what this book had to offering the ending to the reader and the idea that when translated the way the africans spoke was so understandable. it just boggles my mind. good review 8 out of 10

Anonymous said...

fuckin hate this book.

Anonymous said...

I have to do a project on this stupid book and it is so DUMD! i swear people shouldn't be able to write books unless they are intresting!

Anonymous said...

I had to do a project too.
and i agree with the two people before me lol

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Anonymous said...

This Book Was Very Boring & Confusing xP