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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
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Things Fall Apart (1958)

by Chinua Achebe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: African Trilogy (1)

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1001 (81) 1001 books (64) 20th century (151) Africa (901) African (203) African fiction (62) African literature (270) Chinua Achebe (64) classic (164) classics (115) colonialism (280) culture (42) fiction (1,573) historical fiction (124) history (51) Igbo (67) literature (256) missionaries (59) Nigeria (431) nigerian (85) nigerian literature (69) novel (278) own (56) postcolonial (69) postcolonialism (47) read (196) religion (63) to-read (147) unread (55) world literature (38)
  1. 112
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (SanctiSpiritus)
  2. 70
    Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (mrstreme)
  3. 116
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (jlelliott, bbudke)
    jlelliott: Each tells the story of Christian missionaries in Africa, one from the perspective of the missionaries, one from the perspective of the local people targeted for "salvation".
  4. 21
    Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (Osbaldistone)
  5. 00
    Living Memories: Kenya's Untold Stories by Al Kags (WorldreaderBCN)
  6. 00
    The Ghost of Sani Abacha by Chuma Nwokolo (WorldreaderBCN)
  7. 01
    Season of migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (Rubbah)
  8. 02
    The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (andomck)
    andomck: Both books are about colonization. One is from the perspective of colonizer, the other the colonized.
  9. 011
    Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (TuesdayNovember)
    TuesdayNovember: Both follow the fall of a callous man - one great, one not quite so.
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» See also 621 mentions

English (227)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (235)
Showing 1-5 of 227 (next | show all)
A great look at native Africa told, I hope, in a really accurate way. Equally great look at what missionaries did to that way of life. I especially appreciated that the author did not ask the reader to take one side or the other. A really moving account of an important time in African history. ( )
  elsyd | Mar 15, 2014 |
Although I appreciate the author's attempt to address the atrocities of imperialism, I think it could be presented in a better fashion. The concept of "the rape of Africa" is lost when trying to grasp challenges within the culture. ( )
  necowade | Feb 25, 2014 |
This review is part of a longer one I wrote of the entire African Trilogy.

The most famous of Achebe's works, this novel focuses on Okonkwo, a farmer in a precolonial Igbo village who, reacting to what he perceived as his father's failure and weakness, rules his household of several wives with a heavy hand and always takes an aggressive stand when the elders of the village meet to determine, by conversation and consensus, what the village should do to meet the challenges it faces. He was a famous wrestler in his youth, and longs for the warlike times of old. After one of these meetings of the elders, a young boy from a neighboring village is brought to live in Okonkwu's compound as partial payment from the village for the murder of the wife of a man in Okonkwu's village (the other payment is a young virgin from the neighboring village to replace the man's wife). This boy becomes part of the family, but then the spirits that rule the village demand a further penalty that becomes part of Okonkwu's psychological burden. The spirits and the gods definitely rule the village, through their priests and priestesses (who are more or less ordinary villagers the rest of the time), and the scenes with them, along with the scenes of the elders meeting and reaching decisions, together create a vivid portrait of what traditional Igbo life was like. Okonkwu's inability to control his aggression eventually leads him to be exiled from the village for seven years, and when he finally returns things have changed, because the British have arrived, first exerting their influence through religion, with missionaries building churches and attempting to convert the Africans. Indeed, one of Okonkwu's sons, to his dismay, becomes a Christian convert. Later, the administrators, backed up by the army, arrive; too late, the villagers try to rebel, and tragedy ensues.

This is just a broad outline of what is an endlessly fascinating novel. Achebe has deep compassion for Okonkwu's flaws, and for both the beauty and the flaws of Igbo culture. (In her introduction, Adichie remarks that one of Achebe's accomplishments was to demonstrate just how inaccurate and racist European portrayals of Africa were.) It was, of course, a patriarchal society, and if I have one complaint it is how secondary the female characters are in this novel.
  rebeccanyc | Feb 23, 2014 |
Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe
Saturday, February 22, 2014
The traditions, Gods and customs of Umuofia clan of the Ibo people in Nigeria are described in simple prose, as the story of Okonkwo and is family is told. Okonkwo made a great name for himself as a wrestler first, a warrior and a industrious farmer, overcoming the reputation of his lazy father. He has a title in the clan, until his gun discharges accidentally in a meeting, killing a youth. He is banished for 7 years, and during that time Christian missionaries arrive, and attract his son to their faith. Okonkwo, always proud, ambitious, and fearing to lose respect, becomes bitter, and after his arrest with other elders of the tribe, kills an agent of the government, and commits suicide. His tale is the scaffold on which is built the story of the destruction of the ways of the Ibo by the arrival of christianity and colonial government. One identifies with the Umuofia people throughout, and you find their ways sensible, and the opposing Christian ways strange, and unforgiving.
I read this in a cheap hardback edition, and liked it enough to acquire the Folio Society version out of print a few years ago. I read it quickly, always a sign that I enjoyed the story. ( )
  neurodrew | Feb 22, 2014 |
Achebe is an excellent writer and Things Fall Apart was a book that I had a hard time parting from. I was immersed in the life of Okonkwo and didn’t want to put the book down once I began reading it. Even if I didn’t always like the character or more that I didn’t like the things he did, I was still fully enraptured in his tale.

Read the rest of my review here!
  dragonflyy419 | Feb 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 227 (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 (52 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chinua Achebeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bandele, BiyiIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vertaalgroep Administratief Centrum BergeykTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

—W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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.
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Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385474547, Paperback)

One of Chinua Achebe's many achievements in his acclaimed first novel, Things Fall Apart, is his relentlessly unsentimental rendering of Nigerian tribal life before and after the coming of colonialism. First published in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, the book eschews the obvious temptation of depicting pre-colonial life as a kind of Eden. Instead, Achebe sketches a world in which violence, war, and suffering exist, but are balanced by a strong sense of tradition, ritual, and social coherence. His Ibo protagonist, Okonkwo, is a self-made man. The son of a charming ne'er-do-well, he has worked all his life to overcome his father's weakness and has arrived, finally, at great prosperity and even greater reputation among his fellows in the village of Umuofia. Okonkwo is a champion wrestler, a prosperous farmer, husband to three wives and father to several children. He is also a man who exhibits flaws well-known in Greek tragedy:
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. 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.
And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him.

Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:30 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

[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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