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Things Fall Apart (1958)

by Chinua Achebe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: African Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
20,928436213 (3.76)5 / 1051
First published in 1958, this novel tells the story of Okonkwo, the leader of an Igbo (Ibo) community who is banished for accidentally killing a clansman. The novel covers the seven years of his exile to his return, providing an inside view of the intrusion of white missionaries and colonial government into tribal Igbo society in the 1890s.… (more)
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» See also 1051 mentions

English (411)  Spanish (6)  Swedish (4)  Italian (2)  German (2)  French (2)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (432)
Showing 1-5 of 411 (next | show all)

I found this fascinating to read. I have read very little African fiction, most of that being Afro-Futurism. Most recently on that list is Binti: The Complete Trilogy, which (perhaps strangely) I found helpful as a sort of primer.

It's not a happy book, but the story is interesting as many "slice-of-life" tales interwoven as Okonkwo experiences his life over a generation with his people. I found a lot to relate to in his overwhelming drive not to be like his father - perhaps this story is the other side of that knife. One wonders what Unoka's father was like, and what Nwoye's life continued to be. It's a compelling look at how the motivation of "I will not be like my father" can be shared by a father, son, and grandson, and all have different causes and manifestations.

I loved Chinua's writing style, the language at once sparse and rich. There is a lot to be uncomfortable, mournful, and even angry within the writing. Okonkwo is terrible to his wives and children - but this is a view as to how Okonkwo's generation existed and how Okonkwo existed within himself. The overriding drive to demonstrate no fear - itself creates the biggest fear of his life and (view spoiler). It is so tangible and sad. ( )
  ThomasEB | Jul 4, 2024 |
Really interesting! This inspired me to look at how I approach those who are different from me as well as research a bit into the culture and history behind the story. I would highly recommend the cultural/historic history as you read this book! It adds tons of depth! ( )
  illarai | Jun 26, 2024 |
This text took a bit to get going, but after it did, it was quite good. It described the conflict with Nigerian tribes, or 'clans', and the imposition of Christianity on them through white, foreign missionaries, told from the clansmen's point of view. The ending was, perhaps, a little surprising. ( )
  DAVIDGOTTS | Jun 18, 2024 |
While I was reading this book, I couldn't help but feel myself transferred back to my high school days... reading a book that I had little invested interest in but felt an obligation to finish. This book definitely has the feeling of the kind of book a school would choose to give their students a proper introduction to other cultures. (If you don't read about other cultures you won't be cultured enough for us to let you graduate!)

And this book is heavy with the feeling that it is trying to inform you about the wide world of peoples out there that have suffered in unimaginable ways. Now, I have no problem with a book that is written with that purpose, I have enjoyed many books like that, (Kaffir Boy, for instance). The problem I had with this book and its message, was that it portrayed it badly, in many ways.

The first thing that really bothered me was the main character, Okonkwo. If you're going to write a book where you're trying to emphasize the suffering a character is going through, you would think you'd write him as a character someone could empathize with. I'm sorry, but I can't empathize with a character who beats his wife and children, and blames it on father issues. Secondly, the book was quite honestly... boring. A sizable chunk of the novel is spent talking about yams, farming yams, and all the bad things that have happened to the yams and the yam farms. More detail is put into yams than character development. I understand Achebe must be trying to show a piece of the culture he grew up with... but it was honestly just boring. And I know its possible to make farming sound interesting in books... Achebe didn't do that.
But it wasn't just the farming in the book that was boring – quite frankly not a lot of interesting things happen in this book. There are a few intriguing scenes but they are so minor, and lacking in conclusion, that they aren't enough to make up for the scenes that are dull.

The last thing that I had a big problem with was the cookie-cutter stereotypes of the characters. It is a story about how white colonizers negatively affected an African tribe. This is not a type of story I have a problem with. What I did have a problem with was how the white and African characters pretty much followed a very predictable scenario – the Christian missionaries come in and try to preach to the tribespeople; The tribespeople respond by fighting, killing missionaries, and destroying churches. I find this ironic because I believe I read somewhere, that as a young man, Achebe was angry at stories of Africa depicting "savage Africans." (Such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.) Is he making a stab at that literature through this book? Or maybe this really was a situation he encountered in his youth?? I'm sure a lot of clashes really did happen between white colonizers/missionaries and the tribespeople of Africa. But the way it was in this book was just so predictable I could almost tell you what would happen on the next page. And it surprised me that someone who seems to have experienced this kind of situation firsthand wrote it in such a seemingly generic, predictable manner.
And tying this in with the end, when Okonkwo kills himself because he sees the irreparable damage the Christians have done to his tribe's culture... I didn't even feel bad for him. Sorry your culture's ruined...... but you beat your wives/children constantly. So.... really... I'm not sorry.

This is a really hard book to give a bad review, too. It's easy to think that someone must be racist because of giving this book a bad review... but there are so many parts of this book that I personally think are dangerously on the edge of being racist, and work to prolong stereotypes. And to add on top of that problem – it has bad characters and is generally just boring. Perhaps, in the end, I am thinking about this book in too simple of terms, that I'm under-analyzing it. Maybe it's the sort of book where you have to look even deeper than you might think to try and get the "true message" out of it. Maybe. But then maybe there are a million other books out there that I could be better spending my time on. ( )
  escapinginpaper | May 18, 2024 |
A haunting parable. The final chapter of this book still stings my western heart with every reading. Others have written eloquently on this work - and some reviews on here posit an alternative viewpoint on the apparently uppity and unreasonable, if not downright ungrateful aims of postcolonialist literature - so you can make up your own mind on that. But gosh I think this was an important novel 60 years ago, and it remains so. A challenge to its western readership, from the use of untranslated words to its matter-of-fact, quasi-Dickensian ironic descriptions of the local culture as seen through the protagonist, and sometimes his children - already questioning their own culture, as we all do.

A complex portrayal of colonialism that twists the knife very well indeed. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 411 (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
James, Peter FrancisNarratorsecondary 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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Wikipedia in English


First published in 1958, this novel tells the story of Okonkwo, the leader of an Igbo (Ibo) community who is banished for accidentally killing a clansman. The novel covers the seven years of his exile to his return, providing an inside view of the intrusion of white missionaries and colonial government into tribal Igbo society in the 1890s.

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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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