Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
New York : McDowell, Obolensky, 1959. First American Edition. Hardcover. 187 pages ; 21 cm. $3.75 dust jacket. Lite browning to the front endpaper. Department store price sticker on the inner front flap of the dust jacket. No markings within the pages and binding are firm.
Things fall apart : a novel by Chinua Achebe
Thing's Fall Apart centers on Okonkwo, a self-made and successful man striving for an ascendant position in his village. The story takes place in a Nigerian village in the late 19th Century, and in it, Chinua Achebe, a young Nigerian writing in English, has dramatized the coherent, patterned past of his people and the effects of Western civilization upon it.
Through Okonkwo's menage of three wives and many children, his ambitions and especially his honor and fierce prowess in battle, we are made to share the African's experience with his gods, his superstitions and customs, even his weather. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of his novel is that it succeeds in presenting a way of life, unknown and alien to us, from the inside. It is a story simultaneously absorbing in its strangeness and compelling in its compassionate observation of human nature.
The background of the story is the life of the village—its feasts, wrestling matches, betrothal celebrations, and also its shrouded oracles and masked gods and the net of fear that can separate a mother from her child, a man from his heir. The story culminates with the arrival of the emissaries (of both races) of the Western world, who bring their religion, government, and skill in fragmentary form to be dispersed and dismembered once more among an uncomprehending people—half hostile, half CUriOUS. Achebe writes clear, level, almost understated prose, and it is partly through his tautly controlled style that the power of the book is achieved.
about the author
Chinua Achebe was born twenty-eight years ago in Nigeria. His father had been one of the earliest converts to Christianity in his village and was then a missionary teacher. Achebe attended the mission school in his village and after six years won a scholarship to a government secondary school. He says, "Even in the village school I had developed an interest in English—a very elementary and stilted kind of English. I was hopeless at games, and I once had a report to the effect that I hardly existed outside the classrooms. My indifference to cricket has grown with the years."
Achebe then won a scholarship to study Medicine at the University College at Ibadan, but he soon realized that he had very little interest in science. After a year he switched to the Liberal Arts curriculum and edited the student magazine. He writes "In the university I was definitely certain that I would write novels, and the story of Things Fall Apart began to form vaguely in my mind. When in the end I settled down to write it I did not need any kind of draft. My main interest is in the life of the communities in the past. I have chosen a hinterland community far from the coastal peoples who have been debased by their participation in the cruelties of the slave trade. I am also interested in the problems of present day Nigeria and intend in my next novel to bring the story of Okonkwo's family up to date."
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