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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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13,124297171 (3.74)781
Member:HelenGress
Title:Things Fall Apart
Authors:Chinua Achebe
Info:Anchor (1994), Paperback, 209 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Nigeria, colonialism, change

Work details

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)

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English (286)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (296)
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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 | Sep 22, 2016 |
This is the first book in the African Trilogy and follows the story of Okonkwo, a powerful warrior who has built himself up to his position as a way to counteract and move beyond what he saw as laziness in his father. Okonkwo is also concerned about the future: his son seems to be following the same patterns as the grandfather, and there are also reports about strange white men coming and interacting with other villages. What could they mean, and what can be done about them?

This book ended up being a very fast read, being finished in two days. I liked how clean and unfussy the writing was, and I enjoyed the stories and folklore, as well as the parts where the women's role in the village was showcased. I could sympathize with Okonkwo's wanting to avoid becoming his father (a lot of people probably think the same about other elements of their parents' personalities), but that was no excuse for lashing out at his wives and children with physical violence or emotional injury.

This is the sort of book that would benefit from a discussion group or other readings to situate it in context. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Aug 6, 2016 |
Readers learn quite a bit about the tribal customs in colonial Africa in this novel that chronicles Okonkwo and his tribe. We see him becoming a great warrior, but we also see him ignoring the advice of his elders. Eventually he commits an offense that causes him to be banned for seven years. He seeks refuge with his mother's tribe. During this time, missionaries arrive and many tribal members, including his oldest son, become Christians. Okonkwo sees them as a threat to the tribe. I am not a big fan of African fiction or fictional settings, probably because snakes are so prominent. Although I tried to give this book a chance to turn my distaste around, I found my mind wandering as I was listening to it. I just was not enjoying it. I did, however, find myself enjoying it much more after the missionaries arrived in part 2, but my enthusiasm waned a bit after the initial boost in attentiveness, even before Okonkwo tried to do anything about their presence. I found myself thinking that I'd much prefer to read the biographies of the missionaries who visited Okonkwo's area than the book in hand. AudioSync offered this book free one week this summer, and I downloaded it then. I realize that my personal taste in books probably clouded my judgment on this one, but it just couldn't maintain my interest. I couldn't wait for it to end and did a happy dance in the car when it finally did. ( )
  thornton37814 | Aug 5, 2016 |
novel of African family man — clan rules, strong man — dominated by fear + anger
His father poor/weak — He wanted to be rich/strong + his sons — "Things Fall Apart"

THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
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1 vote | christinejoseph | Jul 24, 2016 |
his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and the fear of weakness'
By sally tarbox on 24 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback
Easy to read but with a deeper subtext, this is the tale of Okonkwo. Having risen through his own efforts from being son of a wastrel father, he is now an important man in his Nigerian village, a position he jealously guards by ruling his wives and children with an iron hand.
Achebe gives a good picture of what life was like before white settlers came - the superstitions, wars and beheadings of rival clans, the fear of the oracle. And then the first missionaries arrive with their apparently harmless religion, followed by the first administrators, and the clan appears to be 'breaking up and falling apart'...
Vivid and enjoyable portrayal of old Nigeria, leaving the reader uncertain whether 'westernization' was a good thing for the ordinary people. ( )
  starbox | Jul 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 286 (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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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 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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