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Things Fall Apart (African Writers Series) (original 1958; edition 1968)

by Chinua Achebe

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12,921292177 (3.74)764
Member:bpstrick
Title:Things Fall Apart (African Writers Series)
Authors:Chinua Achebe
Info:Heinemann Educational Books (1968), Edition: First Printing, Paperback, 200 pages
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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)

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English (283)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (292)
Showing 1-5 of 283 (next | show all)
Things Fall Apart is my first encounter with Chinua Achebe's work. I happened to see it up on the circulation shelf on my last trip to the library while I was checking out and remembered it was on my forever-growing TBR list. After I asked for it, the lady next to me mentioned she had studied it in school and that she ended up keeping the book because it was wonderful. After reading it, I can certainly see why it would be an interesting study. That's usually a point towards any of my favorite books. I have a lot of affection for books that open up new channels to me in further research and reading. I also have a lot of affection for nuance and for tribal and historical novels that can capture and cultivate the art of the spoken story. I feel that Achebe quenches that affection quite satisfyingly for me.

Pointing out Achebe's use of nuance isn't anything new; most of the positive reviews I've seen for Things mention it/praise it. Just as most of the negative reviews I've seen for the book mention that nothing much happens in the book and/or they weren't overly impressed by the revealed tribal culture- that there are books out there that describe it more exotically and with more aplomb. I would definitely agree on the exoticism front. I would go as far as saying that it's this agreement that makes the book so impressive to me. It's not about the exotic, it's about the context of a community that isn't based on fancy, fetish, or the centralization of some big, booming scene that seeks to drag the reader in. It puts forth complex themes (politics, religion, colonization, the pro and cons of such, the self awareness of the individual and the pull or even necessity of acting on the behalf of a whole, etc.) in a straightforward manner and, to me, it's this that is the most moving element. Because these themes are not foreign and, in reality, the society of "the tribe" isn't either. In this way, Achebe's nuance honors tribal history while leaving room for interpretation of his work, his themes, and their context on a scale of both personal and modern societal planes. This is aplomb, this is assurance and intelligent writing, in my opinion. This is George Eliot, Dostoevsky, Gogol, etc. A look into a bit of society that holds current because it is a magnifier for ourselves historically and presently.

As quoted from Yeats' The Second Coming, "...The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world," I believe it is both poignant to Achebe's book as well as to the readers of his work that the creation of confusion, anarchy, etc. is brought on by an inability to hear that which we are moving away from. If we are merely to be moved by exoticism, we lose the introspection our past can lead to- the themes that repeat so often in generations. While Achebe's Things will fall to positive and negative reviews as books are wont to do and I hold no real opinion on what it means if the novel is liked or not by someone- I believe that the merit of his book stands apart because it offers something vital to its readers that isn't just based on plot line, era, character, or specific culture/society.

Reviewed on Genius Article: The Year I Went Crazy About Reading
( )
  lamotamant | Jun 23, 2016 |
Nigerian tribesman Okonkwo is a warrior with a hard outlook on life. The shame of having a lazy father caused Okonkwo to be the opposite, working hard on his yam fields, gaining position in the tribe and turning himself into a wealthy and respected young man. He treats his three wives and his children, including an adopted son from another tribe, brutally, as he believes his strength comes from making others fear him. With all the violent actions Okonkwo does intentionally and without remorse, it is an accident that changes his life forever and leads, in his mind, to the breaking apart of his family and tribe. ( )
  mstrust | Jun 20, 2016 |
I still can't decide if Achebe was trying to hold up Okonkwo as a hero and a martyr or if he was showing him as a man who didn't realize he was on the wrong side of history. I can't decide if the Ibo or the Englilsh were the ones held up to be noble.

I know how I see it... ( )
  gpaisley | Jun 18, 2016 |
Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

The book was interesting and entertaining. The writing style is easy to read and the use of language and phrases makes the story real and unique. Achebe includes his culture’s rich heritage and how the coming of the Europeans imperialists affected the African’s many tribal groups and how they finally fell apart. Even though his method of writing was simple at times about describing people, places and objects, it was still very effective. Achebe used a few words from the Ibo (Nigerian people in Western Africa) language but explained those word in English with equivalence. The roles of men and women of the African society are very clear and the description of settings was written with authentic realism.

The story is about the life within different tribal groups shone through the main character, Okonkwo who is an Ibo tribesman skilled at wrestling and a strong warrior in his youth. Honor and masculinity are vital to his character. As an adult Okonkwo has flaws with trying to control his temper and rigid attitude. As the story goes on Okonkwo has broken one of the rules set among his tribe and has been cast out of his tribe for seven years and this has made a major change in his life. He returns to his deceased wife’s tribal village, shamed to the lowest class of the tribe to live out his seven years. He did serve as a symbol for his tribe which in some ways was beautiful, some terrible and some tragic.

Many of the African tribes struggled when the white missionaries came along with permission from the African people to build their chapel in the dead forest that the tribes believe was taboo, thinking the evil would drive the white missionaries who were spreading Christianity, away in a short period of time. However, this didn’t happen and some of the people of different tribes started going to the sermons but Okonkwo and other Africans were offended. This is when the two cultures clashed and the conflict went on out of ignorance from both parties.

When Okonkwo is allowed to return to his tribe his society changed dramatically. Missionaries had also come to his village to teach Christianity but the people of his tribe had different views on how to live their lives. The missionaries also didn’t understand the African’s way of life and so the story shows how communication can be a problem that could lead to a huge downfall of a once powerful society and how “Things Fall Apart”.

I have the other two books to this trilogy and soon I will try the next one….
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
2.5 stars

I struggled with this book. I know it's a classic, and introduced the world to African literature, so perhaps it was worth reading just for that.

But I'm not sure what the intended consequence of this tale was.

I was interested in the ideas that all peoples, regardless of history and contact with the rest of the world, develop ways to mark time, ways to celebrate, ways to connect with divinity, family structures, and so many other things that occur time and again across cultures. I know enough of my own culture's history to know my ancestors made their own mistakes. I know enough to know we're still making mistakes.

But I have a hard time having empathy with a misogynistic culture that leaves twin babies to die.

So while I know I'm supposed to feel White Guilt for the actions of imperialists and missionaries from centuries ago, I kinda don't. I would like to feel that these forces destroyed innocent indigenous peoples. But if that's what it took to offer freedom for different choices to those who wanted them, I can't drum up any sympathy for Okonkwo or his way of life.

This book will make you think about things you might not have before, or haven't for a long time. Perhaps you will have more sympathy to spare than I did.

( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 283 (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 (51 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chinua Achebeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Appiah, Kwame AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome 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 centre 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.
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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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.
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:52 -0400)

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[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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