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Things Fall Apart (1958)

by Chinua Achebe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: African Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
16,189353220 (3.75)893
[This book is] a simple story of a "strong man" whose life is dominated by fear and anger ... Uniquely ... African, at the same time it reveals [the author's] ... awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places.-Back cover.
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Africa (3)
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» See also 893 mentions

English (341)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (354)
Showing 1-5 of 341 (next | show all)
Call it 3.5 ( )
  aleepierce | Jul 26, 2020 |
If you don't like my story, write your own. ( )
  SolangePark | Jul 11, 2020 |
Set in the last moments of pre-colonial Nigeria, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart relates the story of Okonkwo, one of the greatest warriors of his clan. The novel starts by providing background on Okonkwo's father and Okonkwo's upbringing, both of which inform his decisions as a grown-up. While his father was said to be rather lazy and not going the extra mile to get a good harvest, Okonkwo is described as industrious and diligent. Okonkwo is also determined not to show weakness of any kind and his every decision is rooted in this feeling of having to show that he is the strongest and most fearsome warrior in his clan. Okonkwo's rise to power in the clan is, however, stopped by an act of violence and his subsequent banishment of seven years. When Okonkwo returns, colonialization is slowly starting and Christian missionaries are changing the lives of the people in his clan. How will Okonkwo deal with the intruders that completely disrupt life in the village?

Throughout the book the reader is confronted by characters speaking in proverbs that arise from oral traditions of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria. Right at the beginning of the novel it is stated that "Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten." For me this was a rather new and unfamiliar experience as I was constantly thinking that the proverbs carry a deeper meaning that I will never be able to grasp fully. Add to that the fact that they are used frequently and you get the first aspect that made me think about getting an annotated version or looking up explanations of the proverbs online. The second aspect is that I know next to nothing about pre-colonial Nigeria. This is, however, also the reason why I picked up this book. Eventually, I think this novel is a good starting point to start learning more about (pre-colonial) Nigeria.

As regards the plot, I found that there were many descriptions and many conversations which did contribute to the overall setting and understanding of Okonkwo's motivations but seemed to be negligible. For a long time I was missing a climax or some sort of turning point. To my mind, many important events could have been explored in more detail while others could have been passed over more quickly. The arrival of the European colonizers only comes quite late in the novel, but that is exactly the point where I would have wished for more as the conflict was obvious. It was also obvious that there would be no easy resolution to that conflict and Okonkwo's character trait of showing no weakness whatsoever provides a lot of potential that was not utilized. The following passages are very revealing as concerns the mindsets of colonized and colonizers:

The colonized: 'Tell the white man that we will not do him any harm,' he said to the interpreter. [...] 'You can stay with us if you like our ways. You can worship your own god. It is good that a man should worship the gods and the spirits of his fathers. [...]'

The colonizer: 'Tell them to go away from here. This is the house of God and I will not live to see it desecrated.'

That being said, I have to say that overall I liked the novel and only thought that it could have been longer. Immediately after I finished reading I felt like it was all exposition and only little else. Yet, the book managed to stay with me and I find myself constantly returning to "what would have happened if"-thoughts. 3.5 stars. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Jul 4, 2020 |
Brutal. Achebe presents the not so distant past in an almost matter of fact tone that enables the reader to simultaneously scorn and sympathise.
( )
  Georgina_Watson | Jun 14, 2020 |
It's easy to see how and why this has become one of the most influential novels in English-language African literature. It's been referenced so much in so many novels I've read set afterwards, in the post-colonial era, and I can see why even if the overuse of the phrase "things fell apart" in We Need New Names was a bit irritating. It's a brilliant precursor to all of those novels, honest and sombre. I feel that a lot of people who didn't like it have oversimplified it; it makes them angry that he acknowledges the problems (in particular, the intensely patriarchal structures) in Igbo society before colonisation, and some of them have gone so far as to say doing so glorifies the colonists. I didn't see this at all. The colonists are arrogant and brutal, but at the same time there were reasons why people gravitated towards their ideological servants, the missionaries… people like Nwoye, who is furious that his father killed his best friend, and a woman who keeps giving birth to twins that tradition dictates she must leave to die. It's simultaneously mournful for what was lost and truthful enough to say that what existed was no utopia. Highly recommended. (Feb 2014) ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 341 (next | show all)

Set in the late 19th century, at the height of the "Scramble" for African territories by the great European powers, Things Fall Apart tells the story of Okonkwo, a proud and highly respected Igbo from Umuofia, somewhere near the Lower Niger. Okonkwo's clan are farmers, their complex society a patriarchal, democratic one. Achebe suggests that village life has not changed substantially in generations.

The first part of a trilogy, Things Fall Apart was one of the first African novels to gain worldwide recognition: half a century on, it remains one of the great novels about the colonial era.
[Achebe] describes the many idyllic features of pre-Christian native life with poetry and humor. But his real achievement is his ability to see the strengths and weaknesses of his characters with a true novelist's compassion.

» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Achebe, Chinuaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Appiah, Kwame AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bandele, BiyiIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dicker, JaapTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dicker, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Okeke, UcheIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puigtobella, BernatTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodriguez, EdelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serraillier, IanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vertaalgroep Administratief Centrum BergeykTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werk, Jan Kees van deAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

—W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"
First words
Okonkwo was well-known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat.
The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.
There is no story that is not true.
The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.
If I hold her hand she says, Don't Touch!. If I hold her foot she says Don't Touch! But when I hold her waist-beads she pretends not to know.
A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.
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More than two million copies of Things Fall Apart have been sold in the United States since it was first published here in 1959. Worldwide, there are eight million copies in print in fifty different languages. This is Chinua Achebe's masterpiece and it is often compared to the great Greek tragedies, and currently sells more than one hundred thousand copies a year in the United States.
A simple story of a "strong man" whose life is dominated by fear and anger, Things Fall Apart is written with remarkable economy and subtle irony. Uniquely and richly African, at the same time it reveals Achebe's keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places.
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Average: (3.75)
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141023384, 0141186887

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