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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
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Things Fall Apart (original 1958; edition 1994)

by Chinua Achebe

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11,762241225 (3.75)664
Member:HelenGress
Title:Things Fall Apart
Authors:Chinua Achebe
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Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Nigerian Lit, colonialism, change

Work details

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)

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» See also 664 mentions

English (233)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (241)
Showing 1-5 of 233 (next | show all)
(review originally written for bookslut)

Many best books lists are comprised of tomes so dense and impenetrable that it requires a Master's degree in literature to make heads or tails of them. Things Fall Apart is not one of those books. Chinua Achebe's writing is simple and clean, even though his subject matter is anything but. The reader is quickly immersed in tribal life -- in its traditions, its values, its sayings. These things become so familiar and dear that as they begin to change, with time and with outside influence, you mourn their passing.

Achebe's true genius, however, is in his creation of a totally unsympathetic character, and then giving you enough understanding so that you can't help but sympathize with him. Okonkwo is not a kind man. He is hard and unyielding, and rules his household with an iron hand. He detests weakness, and truly believes that by beating his son he will make him stronger. But from the beginning we are shown why he fears failure, and by the end, we understand that fear, maybe even share it.

Of course I've read enough Dorothy Parker to know that the reviews that trash the subject are always more interesting than those that lavish nothing but praise. Nevertheless, I loved this book, and would recommend it to just about anyone. ( )
1 vote greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
My third attempt to read this much-hailed masterpiece. Found the story impossible to follow and of little interest when I could manage. Stirred the worst in me of cultural arrogance in that the people seem benighted, superstitious and pretty well miserable while the author seems to think that's sort of OK. Action such as it is gets interspersed with folk tales about anthropomorphic animals that reveal little about animals and even less about humans. Highly praised by Adichie among many others, and I love her work but it's about Westernised urbanites. Perhaps I'm just not as good at other cultures as i imagine. ( )
  vguy | Sep 13, 2014 |
I had a difficult time with Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart." I expected to absolutely love it, but I found it was a struggle to read and overall I just found it to be an "okay" novel. I couldn't help but compare it to other great African novels like "The River Between" & "God's Bits of Wood" and the story just didn't seem as strong.

It's hard to put my finger on what I didn't love about the novel. It felt almost too fictional to me-- the characters weren't strongly drawn enough and felt a little wooden.

The overall message, about the loss of cultural traditions that occurred when missionaries arrived was a great one. It's an important story to tell. This is definitely one of those books I felt like I should appreciate more than I actually did. ( )
  amerynth | Sep 8, 2014 |
I'm really having trouble deciding if this book was a 3 or 4 star book (once again, wishing Goodreads had something in the middle).

While the story took a little getting into, once I was familiar with the characters, and becoming increasingly familiar with the customs of their village, I became attached to them.

This is a book about native cultures being dominated and overrun by other (Anglo/Christian) cultures. While I can't say that everything in their native culture was good--beating of women and children, lack of any rights for women or children--knowing the history of the Christian church...I can't say if the villagers are any better off.

I picked up this book soley because my students have to read it for 10th grade, and I was interested in what they might be doing in 10th grade. After reading it, I have to say that I think it will make an excellent addition to their personal reading logs. It is not challenging to read, but extremely worth it. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
I'm really having trouble deciding if this book was a 3 or 4 star book (once again, wishing Goodreads had something in the middle).

While the story took a little getting into, once I was familiar with the characters, and becoming increasingly familiar with the customs of their village, I became attached to them.

This is a book about native cultures being dominated and overrun by other (Anglo/Christian) cultures. While I can't say that everything in their native culture was good--beating of women and children, lack of any rights for women or children--knowing the history of the Christian church...I can't say if the villagers are any better off.

I picked up this book soley because my students have to read it for 10th grade, and I was interested in what they might be doing in 10th grade. After reading it, I have to say that I think it will make an excellent addition to their personal reading logs. It is not challenging to read, but extremely worth it. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 233 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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