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The African Trilogy #1

Things Fall Apart

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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.

215 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1958

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About the author

Chinua Achebe

135 books3,575 followers
Works, including the novel Things Fall Apart (1958), of Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe describe traditional African life in conflict with colonial rule and westernization.

This poet and critic served as professor at Brown University. People best know and most widely read his first book in modern African literature.

Christian parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria reared Achebe, who excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. World religions and traditional African cultures fascinated him, who began stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian broadcasting service and quickly moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Achebe defended the use of English, a "language of colonizers," in African literature. In 1975, controversy focused on his lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" for its criticism of Joseph Conrad as "a bloody racist."

When the region of Biafra broke away from Nigeria in 1967, Achebe, a devoted supporter of independence, served as ambassador for the people of the new nation. The war ravaged the populace, and as starvation and violence took its toll, he appealed to the people of Europe and the Americas for aid. When the Nigerian government retook the region in 1970, he involved in political parties but witnessed the corruption and elitism that duly frustration him, who quickly resigned. He lived in the United States for several years in the 1970s, and after a car accident left him partially disabled, he returned to the United States in 1990.

Novels of Achebe focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of values during and after the colonial era. His style relied heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. He also published a number of short stories, children's books, and essay collections. He served as the David and Marianna Fisher university professor of Africana studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, United States.

ollowing a brief illness, Achebe died.

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Profile Image for Rowena.
501 reviews2,516 followers
January 23, 2014
“The drums were still beating, persistent and unchanging. Their sound was no longer a separate thing from the living village. It was like the pulsation of its heart. It throbbed in the air, in the sunshine, and even in the trees, and filled the village with excitement.” - Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

This is a book of many contrasts; colonialism and traditional culture, animism and Christianity, the masculine and the feminine, and the ignorant and the aware (although who is who depends on who’s speaking).

Okonkwo is one of the most intriguing characters in African fiction. He epitomizes so much I dislike; he’s abusive, misogynist, has very little patience or tolerance for the weak, and is perhaps he’s even over-ambitious. Despite all his faults, it’s impossible not to pity him a little because, after all, the life he knows, the life of his ancestors, is being taken from him quite cruelly by the British settlers.

This book really takes the reader into the Igbo culture. Achebe shows the traditional culture very well, a culture which is rife with superstition but rich in context. I loved the inclusion of the African proverbs and folk tales, and the details of the Igbo clan system. Achebe also shows how tightknit precolonial African culture was and how, despite not having the so-called civilized institutions, things went pretty smoothly because of the community spirit and also the societal rules. The importance of ancestors in society is a part of this:

“The land of the living was not far removed from the domain of the ancestors. There was coming and going between them.”

Achebe managed to inject some humour into such bleak subject matter, although I think this feat is quite common among African writers:

”You grew your ears for decoration, not for hearing.”

What I found difficult to come to terms with, as an African Christian myself, is the horrific way Christianity was introduced to the African continent. However, despite the lack of respect the colonialists showed to the people, it’s hard to deny that there were some aspects of African tradition that were outdated and people had the option of leaving such tradition behind, especially if it was harmful. For example, in this book the outcasts and the parents of twin babies (who had to kill their babies to prevent evil from entering the village) obviously found it easier to abandon tradition.

I think this book was the first one that made me realize the terrible impact of colonialism. I’ve always been curious about how Chinese women with bound feet must have felt after that fashion was seen as barbaric and unfashionable, and in the same vein I’ve also wondered about how those in African cultures who had lots of power and were accorded lots of respect might have felt when new values undermined everything they had worked towards.

This book reminds me a lot of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s “The River Between” which focuses on similar subject matter, albeit on the other side of the continent (Kenya). I would highly recommend both of them.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
July 25, 2018
My son and I had a long talk about this novel the other day, after he finished reading it for an English class.

Over the course of the study unit, we had been talking about Chinua Achebe's fabulous juxtaposition of different layers of society, both within Okonkwo's tribe, and within the colonialist community. We had been reflecting on aspects of the tribe that we found hard to understand, being foreign and against certain human rights we take for granted, most notably parts of the strict hierarchy and the role of women. And we had been angry together at the inhumane arrogance and violence of the Europeans, who were only in charge based on their technological development level, not on cultural superiority. We had thought about the roles of men and women, and of individuals in their relation to their families and social environment. We had touched on the hypocrisy of religious missions.

I had dwelt on the title and its beautiful context, the poem by Yeats, more relevant now than ever:

"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,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

We had compared Okonkwo to the skilled falcon, and the ruthless Europeans to falconers killing and destroying without reason. And "The best lack all conviction..." - a sad truth in an era of a radicalised political climate.

We agreed that the novel was excellent, timeless and universally important.

And then came the last paragraph...

If a novel can make a 14-year-old genuinely upset, angry, and frustrated to the point of wanting to slap a fictional character, then the author has managed to convey a message, I'd say. He got me engaged as well, and I could feel my nausea towards the Commissioner re-emerge instantly when reading his arrogant final thoughts, after the tragic showdown:

"The story of this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate. There was so much else to include, and one must be firm in cutting out details. He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger."

The discussion between my son and myself focused on how the commissioner managed to marginalise a whole life, which we had breathlessly followed in the preceding pages, to a mere paragraph in a text of his own vain invention, with zero relation to the true circumstances. My son claimed it was one of the best endings he had ever read - for the sudden change of perspective that disrupted the story and made it stand out in sharp contrast.

Then we continued talking.

Best endings? Which ones could possibly compete?

First one up was One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Its last sentence also puts individual suffering into a wider perspective, in this case a time frame:

“The end of an unclouded day. Almost a happy one. Just one of the 3,653 days of his sentence, from bell to bell. The extra three were for leap years.”

Neither my son nor I will ever get over that counting of three extra days for leap years...

Second up was All Quiet on the Western Front, in which the death of the narrator is reported in a last paragraph that indicates that the main character's life is of so little importance that newspapers wrote there was "Nothing New on the Western Front". His so-called heroic death drowned in the meaningless mass dying, his suffering was completely without purpose in the bigger machinations of politics on national level. And yet, he had been so incredibly alive and opinionated and experienced, just the day before...

Then the last one we could think of (mirroring our shared reading experience), was the horrible case of a last sentence showing the victim's complete identification with the tyrant, the falcon loving the falconer, Orwell's closing line in 1984:

"He loved Big Brother."

The brutality of the comparison made my son say:

"At least Okonkwo made his final choice on his own."

As sad as it is, we felt grateful for that. But what a brave new world, that has such people in it!

Must-read. Must-talk-about!
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,546 followers
April 24, 2023
I read this novel in an almost constant state of rage. First of all, I disliked the main character for his behavior. In our modern society his husband and parenting skills would be considered appalling. I know, I know, the guy was a member of a Nigerian tribe some time ago but the abuse of women and the psychological scarring of children do not sit well with me. Later, the Christian missionaries appeared and the rage scale went through the roof.

The novel is the story of Okonkwo and his tribe before and after the white people appeared. Okonkwo is a physically strong man in the village, he has many titles, land and authority. He losses no opportunity to show he is a real man, feelings and love are only weaknesses for him. He is domineering, sometimes beats his wives and is constantly tormenting his sons, pushing them to be men like him. An unlucky event puts his ambitions to become the most important person in the village on hold but the "falling apart" comes with the white people, God’s missionaries. Okonkwo is one of the few villagers who want to fight the new religion and to remove the menace. Here, knowing what came next, I was on his side.

A major part of the short novel can be read as a collection of African customs, traditions and stories. Most of the time there was no clear plot and I was fine with it. The dramatic events, the clash between the two cultures take place almost at the end but that aspect does not diminish the power of the book.

I understand why the novel is a classic, Chinua Achebe being one of the first writers to show the barbarism of the Western world and its disguise as religion.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,101 reviews7,202 followers
April 1, 2022
[Edited 4/1/22]

Wiki calls the book the most widely read book in modern African literature.

Written in 1958, this is the classic African novel about how colonialism impacted and undermined traditional African culture. It’s set among the Igbo people of Nigeria (aka Ibos). A key phrase is found late in the book: “He [the white man] has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

The main character is a strong man, the village wrestling champion. He has three wives and many children, although the wealthiest man in the village has nine wives, thirty children and three barns. The main character is not above beating his wives when the spirit moves him. He seems ruled by anger and fear.


There’s not a lot of plot. We watch as the main character struggles at first to become established. There are some bad crop years but all in all, things go reasonably well. Then he accidentally kills a fellow tribesman and suffers the punishment imposed by the village elders of being banished from the village for seven years. He loses his land and his accumulated wealth and has to go back to his mother’s village, dreaming of his return. When he does return, white rule has extended its influence into his village and everything has changed.

The British have brought greater prosperity, a school and a clinic but at a tremendous cost, mainly by imposing their laws and legal system above the traditional rule by village elders. A Christian church has been built and many villagers are leaving the old gods and converting to the new religion, including one of the main character’s sons.

There is no return to the old ways. Retaliation by the whites is swift. In a nearby village men killed a white man driving a car (they had never seen a car before). In retaliation, soldiers came and machine-gunned the marketplace – men, women, children; basically annihilating the village.


Much of the book is anthropological. We learn about the village councils, a priestess, crop cultivation, food preparation, and all the elaborate rituals around bride price negotiations, weddings, funerals and the traditional gods.

I liked many of the idioms and proverbs scattered throughout the text:

“There must be a reason for it. A toad does not run in the daytime for nothing.”

“An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.”

“Eneke the bird says that since men have learned how to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching.”

“As a man danced, so the drums were beaten for him.”


The author (1930-2013) was raised as a Christian, went to college in Nigeria, became a journalist, and started writing. With his fame he eventually moved to the US as a professor at Brown University. He turned the book into a trilogy, adding No Longer at Ease in 1960 and then Arrow of God in 1964. The author is also known for a famous academic paper attacking Joseph Conrad as “a thoroughgoing racist."

A good read and classic.

Top: old photo of the (also Igbos) from diaryofanegress.com
Modern-day family Igbo family from hometown.ng
Photo of the author in 2008 from Wikipedia.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
March 27, 2017
Achebe’s protagonist isn’t a very nice man. In reality he is an asshole. I don’t like him. I don’t think anyone really does. He is ruthless and unsympathetic to his fellow man. He grew up in a warrior’s culture; the only way to be successful was to be completely uncompromising and remorseless. His father was weak and worthless, according to him, so he approached life with an unshakable will to conquer it with his overbearing masculinity.

”When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavy in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him? Fortunately, among these people a man as judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his farther.”

I love the sarcasm in this quote. Achebe is clearly suggesting that this is not true for the white man. For all their supposed superiority, they cannot get this simple thing right. The African tribe here has a better system of promotion based on merit. The warrior Okonkwo has a chance to prove himself regardless of what occurs in the more “civilised” part of the world. And here is the crux of the novel. Achebe gives the black man a voice; he gives him culture and civilisation. These men are not represented in an unjust way. He is directly responding to the ignorant trend in Victorian literature that represented the colonised as unintelligible and voiceless: they were shown to be savage. Achebe gives us the reality.

This quote says it all:

“If you don't like my story, write your own”.


And that’s exactly what he did himself. He holds no judgement. His protagonist is completely flawed. Okonkwo is without mercy; he has earnt his fame and respect, so when an untitled youngster speaks out he is immediately roused to anger. This is his hamartia, his tragic flaw, he must overcome this and treat his fellow tribesmen with a degree of dignity. But, he is a slow learner. And who can blame him? For all his brutality and misogyny, this is till his culture. This is all he has ever known, whether it’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. Granted, not all the men are as extreme as him. He uses his position to extract violence more than most. His wives are often the focal point for his rage, much to their misfortune. He sounds like a bad man; he’s certainly not a nice man, but that’s not the point. Achebe’s meaning, and the power of this story is revealed at the end.

I found this very unusual, but it was also very effective. The point of this novel is to show how uncompromising the white man is. That’s an obvious point, though what I mean to say is that its full effect is revealed at the end. The Nigerian culture, the way of life for the tribe folk in this novel, is forced to change because if it doesn’t it will be destroyed in its entirety. The protagonist represents this; he has to deal with the crisis. He had a choice: he could either accept the white man’s way, and be changed forever, or he could stick to his own customs and, ultimately, fall.

-Language is the key:

“Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.”


Africa does not possess a silent culture. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was wrong. African language is formal, developed and intelligent. Here in Nigeria is the conduit for the Igbo culture. It is rich in oral tradition. Achebe recognises that to accept a new language is to shun the original culture. Achebe shows that Igbo tradition is dependent on storytelling and language, to accept English would destroy the Igbo traditions. It would alienate the Africans form their culture; thus, resistance, however futile, is the natural and just response. Okonkwo’s reactions are deeply symbolic of a culture that is about to collapse.

I think what Achebe is trying to portray here is the quietness of the African voice. It had no say. It doesn’t matter if the colonisers were kind or brutal; it doesn’t matter what the Nigerian culture was like in terms of ethics. What matters is that it was taken away or shaped into something else entirely. This was not progress but assimilation. All culture has its flaws, that’s true for any society, but the white one, for all its self-aggrandisement, was nothing but imposing. And for Achebe this is the ruination of the voice he was trying to channel.

“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.”

Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
December 12, 2019
In this classic tale Okonkwo is a strong man in his village, and in his region of nine villages. At age 18 he beat the reigning wrestling champion and has been an industrious worker all his life, a reaction to his lazy, drunkard father. He lives his life within the cultural confines of his limited world, following the laws that govern his society, accepting the religious faith of his surroundings, acting on both, even when those actions would seem, to us in the modern west, an abomination. While he may succeed and fail within the confines of his society’s laws, what he is unable to do is adapt himself to the world when it goes through a dramatic transformation. In this case, his home town is revolutionized when white missionaries set up a base and bring along with them the firepower of western weapons. Unable to cope, unable to channel his justifiable rage into constructive actions, he is led inexorably to his doom.

Chinua Achebe - from the Salon article noted below

What is this book about? It is a simple tale. The details of Okonkwo’s experiences accumulate to give us a picture of his times, his culture, so we have a sense of what is at stake when change arrives. Is this a warning to us of our own inability to see beyond the confines of our culture? How will we cope with change when it comes, in whatever form?

I found it difficult keeping track of the characters. This is a case in which a diagram of a family tree would probably come in handy. Yet, ultimately, this is not so important. What matters is that we get a sense of Okonkowo‘s world. And the impact of the West arriving in an African society. This book is considered a classic, and for good reason.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

There is a wonderful video of John Green talking about the book. Must-see. In fact you could do worse than skipping the above review entirely and checking out Green's vid. And there is a second episode of his vid on the book as well. Have at it.

In 2013, Salon republished a wonderful 2010 essay, Chinua Achebe: The man who rediscovered Africa, on news of his passing.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,195 reviews1,816 followers
February 15, 2023

È impossibile circoscrivere il ruolo di Achebe nella letteratura africana. È come cercare di definire in che modo Shakespeare ha influenzato gli scrittori inglesi o Puškin quelli russi.

Il crollo, o anche Le cose crollano, (1958) è il primo romanzo di una trilogia che include Non più tranquilli del 1960 e il celebre La freccia di dio apparso quattro anni dopo (1964).
Questo primo ha venduto oltre dieci milioni di copie, è stato tradotto in 50 lingue, ed è libro di testo in molte scuole del continente nero.

Effetti delle locuste.

Tre romanzi fondamentali per raccontare l’incontro dell’uomo bianco con l’uomo nero: più nello specifico, quello dei bianchi colonizzatori inglesi con la comunità Igbo, il popolo di Achebe.
La stessa gente che abbiamo visto nelle foto e i reportage sul Biafra (1966), forse le prime immagini di bambini denutriti con gli occhi sbarrati e la pancia gonfia giunte in Occidente.

Qui, il fiero Okonkwo rifiuta fino alla morte di scendere a patti con l’invasore, l’uomo bianco. E la sua storia è ambientata all’inizio del secolo in cui si svolse la breve epopea del Biafra, e quindi, nel primo Novecento.

La conquista della terra, che sostanzialmente consiste nello strapparla a quelli che hanno la pelle diversa dalla nostra o il naso leggermente più schiacciato, non è una cosa tanto bella da vedere, quando la si guarda troppo da vicino.
Parole di Marlow in “Cuore di tenebra” di Joseph Conrad.

Achebe non mette in scena il “buon selvaggio” che incontra il vile invasore. Il suo Okonkwo è un vero selvaggio, governato da regole e leggi lontanissime da quelle dei bianchi, ma anche da quelle che i bianchi possono solo concepire. Eppure, anche i bianchi nel passato sono stati legati al ciclo della terra e delle stagioni…
Ma Achebe non divide il suo universo in buoni neri e cattivi bianchi: Okonkwo è violento con le sue mogli, ama i suoi figli ma non si sottrae al sacrificio rituale del figlio adottivo Ikemefuna, è impaziente, giudica l’indolenza maschile un aspetto di personalità femminile, non va d’accordo col suo clan, è un guerriero bellicoso, vince ogni gara di lotta, beve il vino di palma dal teschio della sua prima vittima… l’uomo nero non avrebbe potuto restare così primitivo in eterno…

L’invasore bianco non si presenta con le armi, ma ben più subdolamente chiedendo un po’ di terreno per costruire la sua chiesa: è dalla chiesa dei bianchi che parte la conquista (colonizzazione).
L'uomo bianco è molto astuto. È venuto adagio e in pace con la sua religione. Noi ridevamo della sua follia e gli abbiamo permesso di restare. Adesso ha conquistato i nostri fratelli e il nostro clan non può più essere quello di prima. Ha messo un coltello tra le cose che ci tenevano uniti e noi siamo crollati giù.

Achebe adotta la lingua dell’invasore, l’inglese: ma alla sua d’origine lascia ampio spazio introducendo termini, proverbi, metafore, tanto da necessitare un glossario finale.

La colpa dell’uomo bianco è nota, ma mai abbastanza sottolineata e riconosciuta: aver deciso che la sua cultura è superiore alle altre.
Quella dell’uomo nero è di essersi piegato a una nuova religione e avere accolto nuove regole che non gli appartenevano. Di essere lasciato dominare dalle locuste, i bianchi.
E fors’anche, d’essersi fidato troppo della sua magia.

Sulla copertina dell’edizione più recente.
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews10.2k followers
June 6, 2016
The act of writing is strangely powerful, almost magical: to take ideas and put them into a lasting, physical form that can persist outside of the mind. For a culture without a written tradition, a libraries are not great structures of stone full of objects--instead, stories are curated within flesh, locked up in a cage of bone. To know the story, you must go to the storyteller. In order for that story to persist through time, it must be retold and rememorized by successive generations.

A book, scroll, or tablet, on the other hand, can be rediscovered thousands of years later, after all those who were familiar with the story are long dead--and miraculously, the stories within it can be delivered to modern man in the very same words the ancients used. If, in Qumran cave, we had found the dry bones of the scribe who copied the dead sea scrolls instead of the scrolls themselves, we would have no access to any of his knowledge.

Any library can be destroyed, whether the tales are stored in the mind of a bard or on the skins of animals, but unwritten history is much more fragile--after all, speech is nothing more than wind, which cannot be dug up from the earth a century later. All lands have their own histories, but sadly, we only get to hear a scant few in their own words.

We know that Africa had empires as complex and powerful as those of Europe--beyond the well-known examples of Egypt and Carthage, the Romans give us secondary evidence of the great Central African empires from which they got their salt and gold, alongside many subsequent references--but in the end, these amount to little more than myths and legends.

Carthage itself was so thoroughly destroyed that Rome basically erased their true history, replacing it with Roman propaganda and rumor-mongering, until in The Aeneid, Carthage becomes nothing more than Rome’s jealous, jilted lover--instead of what she truly was: the template of naval dominance and mercantile power that Rome copied and built her empire upon.

The African continent is just as full of ruins and archaeological treasures as Europe or Asia, but due to rampant social and economic instability caused by multinationals squabbling over resources and profits in the power vacuum left in the wake of post-colonialism, it’s not currently safe or supportable to research these sites and rediscover the cultures they represent. Hopefully someday, we will be able to uncover this wealth of knowledge, but until then, we can only imagine all that we have missed: the great loves and wars of Africa, the dark-skinned Caesars and Helens, the Subotais and Musashis of the savanna.

But not all is lost to us. We still have pieces of the puzzle: the fact that fractal math, on which we base our computer languages, comes from North African divination (which is why Fibonacci had to go there to learn it), or the fact that most of the Greek and Roman texts upon which the Western literary tradition is based were passed down to us not from Christian monks, but Islamic scholars (this is why Averroes appears in Raphael's School of Athens , and why he and Avicenna appear alongside Plato and Aristotle in the works of Dante). The glory of Benin City, the wealth of Mansa Musa--all these await the student of African histories.

Plus, there are still storytellers in Africa--the lineages through which their histories have passed are not all dead. Though the words were not written down, we can research them, all the same--looking for lost ‘texts’, rare tales, and compiling them, collecting them, and finally giving voice to histories that have been too-long obscured. Knowing all of this, I thirsted for depth and complexity from Achebe--to get a view into one of the innumerable cultures of Africa.

The power of a story from a different culture is in defamiliarization. Though all cultures share certain universal ideas: love, freedom, revenge, tyranny--the way they are expressed in each particular culture can be eye opening. So, they are capable of showing us familiar things, but making them feel new, making us look at them in a fresh way.

Yet, that's not what I got from this book--indeed, everything in it felt immediately recognizable and familiar, not merely in the sense of 'universal human experience', but in almost every detail of expression and structure. I have read modern stories by fellow American authors which were stranger and produced more culture shock, more defamiliarization than this--but perhaps that was Achebe's intention.

He expressed in interviews just how difficult it was for an African author to publish a novel at all--that no one assumed an African would want to write their own story, and the manuscript was almost lost because the typing agency just didn't take it seriously. Back then, the very notion that Africa might have a history outside of Egypt was controversial--even though it seems simple and obvious to us now that of course every people in every nation has their own history, and the desire for their unique voices to be heard.

So, perhaps it would have been impossible to write a more complex book, that it just wouldn't have been received--Achebe was among the first generation of his people to be college educated, in a branch of a London University opened in Nigeria taught by White, English teachers. More than that, he may have been trying to show that his own culture was just like the culture of his teachers--to stress the similarities instead of the differences.

So then, it makes sense that Achebe is not writing a primer of his culture, but is rather reflecting European culture back at itself, from the mouth of an Igbo man (a brave and revolutionary act!). After all, he was the consummate Western man of letters, by his education, and everything about his book's form reflects that. It is written, not oral, it is in English, it aligns neatly to the Greek tragic structure and the form of the novel--and even the title is taken from one of the most famous poems in the English language.

Achebe is hardly being coy with his inspirations here--he wants us to know that he is adopting Western forms, he wants us to recognize them, to mark them. He is aware that this is a post-colonial work, a work from a culture that has already been colonized, and is responding to that colonization. This is not a voice from the past--the discovery of Gilgamesh buried in the sands--it is a modern voice speaking from the center of the storm.

The central theme is the onset of colonization, the conflict between the tribe and the European forces just beginning to encroach upon them. Like his most notable lecture, this book is a deliberate response to writers like Conrad, Kipling, and Haggard.

I'm not trying to suggest that it's a problem that Achebe is writing in the Western style, or that he's somehow 'too Western'--because it's any author's prerogative if they want to study and explore Western themes. Indeed, as Said observed, it's vital that writers reach across these boundaries, that we don't just force them into a niche where 'women writers write the female experience' and 'Asian writers write the Asian experience'--because that's just racial determinism: due to the culture you're born in, you can only every write one thing (unless you're a White man, and then you can write whatever you like).

Indeed, one cannot confront colonialism without understanding it, adopting its forms, and turning them against the power structure. Achebe himself recognized that an oppressed individual has to use every tool to his advantage to fight back--even those tools brought in by the oppressors, such as the English language, which Achebe realized would allow him to communicate with colonized peoples from countries around the world. Authors from all sorts of national and cultural background have taken on the Western style in this way, and proven that they can write just as ably as any Westerner. Unfortunately, that's not the case with this book.

As a traditionally Western tale, there just isn't a lot to it. It is a tale of personal disintegration representing the loss of culture, and of purpose. It is an existential mode seen in Arthur Miller, Joseph Heller, and J.D. Salinger--but by trying to make the story more universal, Achebe has watered it down too much, so that it lacks depth, sympathy, and possibility. His existentialism is remarkable for its completeness. There is no character who is wholly sympathetic, nor wholly vile. There is no culture or point of view which is either elevated or vilified.

Achebe is extremely fair, presenting the flaws of all men, and of the organizations under which they live, be they Western or African in origin. Like Heller or Miller, his representation of mankind is almost unfailingly negative. Small moments of beauty, joy, or innocence are always mitigated. They exist only in the inflated egos of the characters, or the moralizing ideals of the culture.

Unlike Miller, he does not give us the chance to sympathize. There are not those quiet moments of introspection that make Death of a Salesman so personally tragic. Unlike Heller, Achebe does not contrast the overwhelming weight of loss with sardonic and wry humor. This is not the hyperbole of Belinda's lock, nor the mad passion of Hamlet.

Achebe's characters are not able to find their own meaning in hopelessness--nor do they even struggle to find it and fail, they cannot even laugh at themselves. They persist only through naivete and escapism, and since the reader sees through them, we see that this world has only despondence and delusion.

The constant reminder of this disappointment makes the book difficult to connect with. Since all the hope we are given is almost immediately false, there is little dynamic possibility. Everything is already lost, we only wait on the characters to realize it.

It is difficult to court the reader's sympathy when there is nothing left to be hopeful for. With no counterpoint to despondence--not even a false one--it is hard to create narrative depth, to reveal, or to surprise. Trying to write a climax through such a pervasive depression is like trying to raise a mountain in a valley.

No matter how hard they try, there is no visible path to success. Nothing is certain, and the odds against are often overwhelming. Achebe felt this doubly, as an author and a colonized citizen. He succeeds in presenting hopelessness, sometimes reaching Sysiphean Absurdism, but with too few grains to weigh in the scale against it, his tale presents only a part of the human experience.

Though we may know that others suffer, this is not the same as comprehending their suffering. The mother who says 'eat your peas, kids are starving in Africa' succeeds more through misdirection than by revealing the inequalities of politics and the human state.

Achebe presents suffering to us, but it is not sympathetic; we see it, but are not invited to feel it. His world loses depth and dimension, becomes scattered, and while this does show us the way that things may fall apart, particularly all things human, this work is more an exercise in nihilism than a representation of the human experience.

So, it ends up being one of those books that it more notable for its place in the canon than its quality. It was certainly a brave and revolutionary act for Achebe to write it, and to persist with it, but the book itself is less impressive than the gesture that produced it. For me, it becomes prototypical of a whole movement of books by people of non-Western descent who get praised and published precisely because they parrot back Western values at us and avoid confronting us with actual cultural differences, while at the same time using a thin patina of 'foreignness' to feel suitably exotic, so that the average Western reader can feel more worldly for having read them.

It's flat works like The Kite Runner or House Made of Dawn which are just exotic enough to titillate without actually requiring that the reader learn anything about the culture in order to appreciate it--because of course every guilt-ridden Liberal Westerner wants to read about other cultures, but as Stewart Lee put it: "... not like that, Stew, not where you have to know anything ..."

In the most extreme cases you get something like The Education of Little Tree , where a racist KKK member pretends to be a Native American and writes a book so saccharine, so apologetic and appeasing of White guilt that it can't help but become a best-seller--because it turns out that no one is better at predicting what comforting things Middle America wants to hear about race than a member of the KKK.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that Achebe is anywhere near that--just that it makes obvious the problem with judging a book by its historical place rather than the actual words on the page. Indeed, it's downright insulting to the author and the culture. It's the same response people would have to hearing that a dog wrote a book: 'Wow! I've got to read that!"--which has nothing to do with the quality of the book, and everything to do with the fact that we have very low expectations of dogs.

To treat a person the same way because they are from another culture is pure condescension. Just because someone is born into a culture, that does not make them representative of that culture--authenticity is not an in-born trait, which is the problem of the illusion of the 'pure voice', because there is no pure cultural voice, and to imagine there is is to reduce that culture to a stereotype.

A woman can be a misogynist, an African American can hate his own people. To suggest that somehow, a person's views and perspective are in-born and unchangeable is simply racism--and it doesn't matter if the trait you are assigning to that race is positive or negative, it's still a limitation you're putting on that person.

Non-Westerners are just as capable of creating great works of art as Westerners--but they are also just as capable of writing cliche tripe. Like any other human being, they run the gamut from brilliant to dull, from bigoted to open-minded, from staid to imaginative. As such, there's no reason to grade non-Western authors on some kind of sliding scale, to expect less from them, or to be any less disappointed when their works fall short. Of course, we shouldn't judge their work by Western standards, either--to blame a Japanese fairytale for not being Hamlet--unless like Achebe they are writing in a recognizable Western style and deliberately drawing that comparison.

While there's certainly something to be said for 'getting your foot in the door', that isn't a defense of the book itself--of its plot, characters, or themes. It's also too much to place Africa on Achebe's shoulders--to pretend as if there aren't thousands of unique cultures, histories, and traditions there--and yet that is what we do. We make Achebe into a point of entry to a whole continent, which is a massive burden to place on anyone. Much better to look at the book itself--its words and images--than to try to make it into something that it is not.

A book that lasts can't just be its place and time, it needs to have a deeper vein that successive generations can return to over and over, and I didn't find that here. Indeed, I find it ironic that Achebe has so attacked Conrad, because like Achebe’s work, Heart of Darkness is remarkable because it does take a stand against colonialism and racism. It is admittedly an early stand, and an incomplete presentation, just like Achebe’s. It works only because it is situated in that certain way, transgressive but not too transgressive to alienate its audience--not quite able to escape being a product of its time, but still managing to point the way to the future.

But Conrad is not merely revolutionary by his stance, he has also written a fascinating and fraught book, complex and many-layered, which succeeds despite its shortfalls. Things Fall Apart, in contrast, is a book that only works because of its positioning, and has little further depth to recommend it. I cannot say that the book was not effective, in its place and time--because it certainly was--or that it hasn't been inspirational, but in the end, Achebe's revolutionary gesture far outshines the meager story beneath it.
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 9 books1,195 followers
June 22, 2019
How to attempt a balanced review of Things Fall Apart:

1. The book is serious. Themes and issues dealt in the book are far more serious than many other books written by the contemporary authors of Achebe.

2. The colonial abstract takes an altogether different turn as Achebe explores that colonisers not only colonised the land and properties but also the minds and hearts of the native people.

3. Racism has been dealt very aptly and also religious hypocrisy - different churches for the people who have converted.

4. The plot might seem relaxed and lazy (almost) if you ignore the themes and issues. However, the plot is more than enough to keep the 'readers' engaged.

DO I recommend the book - yes, of course!
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
December 15, 2022
I love classics.

Classics by any other name are "books that are good enough to stick around for a bajillion years."

I learn something. I feel smart. I have a good time.

In this particular case, I learned not just about the colonization of Africa and about missionaries and about Nigeria, but about people, about masculinity, about society.

It's awesome.

Bottom line: Project Reread Books I Half Read When They Were Assigned To Me rules.


some books are really classics for a reason.

review to come / at least 4 stars

tbr review

sometimes i like to add books i half-read in school to my tbr and pretend i'll return to them. just for fun

update: surpassing my own expectations


reading books by Black authors for Black History Month!

book 1: caste
book 2: business not as usual
book 3: the color purple
book 4: the parking lot attendant
book 5: kindred
book 6: wrapped up in you
book 7: the boyfriend project
book 8: a song below water
book 9: filthy animals
book 10: passing
book 11: seven days in june
book 12: ayiti
book 13: notes of a native son
book 14: mediocre
book 15: sister outsider
book 16: the blue road
book 17: the fastest way to fall
book 18: real life
book 19: girl, woman, other
book 20: things fall apart
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,255 followers
April 29, 2023
Okonkwo achieved success at an early age .. 18, the wrestling champ of his tribe the Ibo in colonial Nigeria, fame did not bring riches the hard work on his farm accomplished that . His lazy flute playing father Unoka embarrasses him, neglects his wives and children (the son Okonkwo determines never to be poor) dying with a vast amount of debts . He prospers on the other hand and becomes an important
man in the village marries three women, having numerous children, however times are changing a new religion arrives, the old gods and customs are slowly vanishing like a poof of smoke on a windy day. Still many resist, trouble brews as if a pot of hot coffee, led by Okonkwo...why can't things stay the same? The fierce warrior has killed many in the tribal wars , they have to be respected and their rivals can be punished severely, the pride of the Ibo must and will be maintained . A quite unfortunate occurrence an accident causes the unbeaten rambunctious thoroughly unafraid former brave wrestling
champ to flee his native village exiled for seven years to his mother's home, the disaster humiliated his whole family , he has to begin again with his children and wives. Years pass not very fast yet finally back goes Okonkwo , nevertheless the clock doesn't stand still, the atmosphere flows with a strange current... However the missionaries build a church on an evil spot in the village where the spirits of the cursed thrive , an infestation is known to the frightened people even so the Christians aren't. Converts begin to flock to the building in Umuofia , a Mr. Brown the head missionary a white man a gentle soul gets many new members even Nwoye , Okonkwo's troubled son, a weak person with little ambition this shames the great man. If only he thinks his favorite child the dynamic, always faithful and beautiful
daughter, clever Ezinma was male everything would be different nature is not fair, she is such a facsimile. Strife is about to commence and death as inevitable as rain follows, but what will the British soldiers do their harsh rule is well known and the survivors will learn for a while at least. The most popular book in modern Africa selling over twenty million copies and I see the reasons, it tells the story of the continent's warts and all, the good the bad, the history. This is better than a history book for the facts are dry but the human experiences are not, blood is messy...
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
576 reviews7,760 followers
October 29, 2014
Y'know when you read a novel that is just so stark and bare and depraved that you know it's going to stay with you for a very long time? Yep, it's happened guys. It's happened. This novel ruined me. Ugh it's so great and so horrible. It's what Yeats would describe as a "terrible beauty". Read it, let it wreck you, and bathe in its importance.
Profile Image for فهد الفهد.
Author 1 book4,835 followers
June 28, 2014
الأشياء تتداعى

يبدو أنني لا أتعلم من الدروس!! أجلت الكتابة عن هذا الكتاب كثيراً، انتهيت من قراءته في نوفمبر الماضي، وها قد مرت سبعة أشهر وهو ينتظر على مكتبي بإذعان!! قرأت كثيراً وكتبت كثيراً، ولكنه رغم جماله وقوته بقي مؤجلاً، فقط لأنني ويا للحمق كنت أرغب في أن أكتب عنه أفضل، وهو ليس لوحده في هذا المصير!! هناك كتب أخرى أجلت الكتابة عنها أيضاً، حتى فقدت الرغبة في ذلك وأعدتها إلى مكانها الدافئ في مكتبتي، ولكن قصة أوكونكوو لن تعيش هذا المصير، لن أفقد الرغبة في الكتابة عنها.

أول ما فتنني في رواية غينوا أتشيبي هو عنوانها الملهم (الأشياء تتداعى) والذي استقاه من قصيدة لييتس، يا له من وصف حقيقي لسقوط وانتهاء عالم ما، عشنا فيه وظننا أنه دائم لا يزول، ولكن ها هو يتداعى وينتهي مخلفاً أنقاضاً هنا وهناك في ثقافتنا.

نشر غينوا أتشيبي الروائي النيجيري روايته هذه سنة 1958 م، باللغة الإنجليزية وسرعان ما صارت من أشهر الروايات الأفريقية، كما قررت كمنهج دراسي في كثير من الدول الأفريقية.

في هذه الرواية نعيش مع أوكونكوو الرجل القوي الذي بنى نفسه من الصفر وصار أقوى رجل في قريته، نعيش في عالم القرية الأفريقية ما قبل الاستعمار، دينها وعاداتها وخرافاتها، ثم تبدأ التحولات في الظهور، وهو ما يقلق أوكونكوو فيقف في وجهها، ويقاتل للحفاظ على عالمه كما عرفه، ولكن تتغير العادات، ويتغير الدين بازدياد المعتنقين للمسيحية، وعندما يقتل أوكونكوو مبعوثاً من الحكومة الاستعمارية تكون مغامرته قد انتهت.

نهاية الرواية من أجمل النهايات والتي ذكرتني بنهاية (كل شيء هادئ على الجبهة الغربية) لإريك ماريا ريماك، فعلاً كل شيء يتداعى يا أوكونكوو.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews35 followers
May 8, 2022
(Book 472 from 1001 books) - Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Published in 1958. Its story chronicles the pre-colonial life in Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, one of the first to receive global critical acclaim. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and is widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. The title of the novel was borrowed from W. B. Yeats' 1919 poem "The Second Coming".

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «همه چیز فرو می‌پاشد»؛ «همه چیز فرو می‌ریزد»؛ «همه چیز از هم می‌پاشد»؛ نویسنده: چینوا آچیه؛ (جوانه رشد، سروش، آستان قدس رضوی) ادبیات افریقا؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و چهارم ماه اکتبر سال2012میلادی

عنوان: همه چیز فرو می‌پاشد؛ نویسنده: چینوا آچیه؛ مترجم: فرهاد منشوری؛ مشهد، آستان قدس؛ سال1368؛ در232ص؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان نیجریه - افریقا - سده20م

عنوان: همه چیز فرو می‌ریزد؛ نویسنده: چینوا آچیه؛ مترجم: گلریز صفویان؛ تهران، سروش؛ سال1377؛ در240ص؛ چاپ دوم سال1388؛ شابک9789643767419؛

عنوان: همه چیز از هم می‌پاشد؛ نویسنده: چینوا آچیه؛ مترجم: علی هداوند؛ تهران، نیکا؛ سال1391؛ در224ص؛ شابک9786009092024؛

عنوان: همه چیز فرو می‌پاشد؛ نویسنده: چینوا آچیه؛ مترجم: علی اصغر بهرامی؛ تهران، جوانه رشد، سال1380؛ در231ص؛ شابک9646115012؛

عنوان: همه چیز فرو می‌پاشد؛ نویسنده: چینوا آچیه؛ مترجم: کامروا ابراهیمی؛ تهران، افراز، سال1390، در208ص؛ شابک9789642435906؛

داستان در شرق «نیجریه» رخ میدهد، بازگشایی پیچیدگی های جامعه ای سنتی پیش از اشغال توسط مسیونرهاست، نویسنده، تراژدی قهرمان داستان خویش «اوکنک وو»، و جامعه را بازگو میکنند؛ «آلبرت چینوالوموگو آچه‌به» نامدار به «چینوآ آچه‌به (زاده در روز شانزدهم از ماه نوامبر سال1930میلادی – درگذشته در روز بیست و یکم ماه مارس سال2013میلادی)» نویسنده و شاعر «نیجریه»ای‌ تبار، و از نامدارترین نویسندگان قاره ی «آفریقا» بودند، از ایشان با نام «بنیانگذار ادبیات آفریقایی در زبان انگلیسی» یاد می‌شود؛ نخستین رمان ایشان «همه چیز فرو می‌پاشد» در سال1958میلادی منتشر شد؛ این اثر به بیش از پنجاه زبان جهان از جمله فارسی برگردان شده و بیش از ده میلیون نسخه از آن به فروش رفته‌ است؛ «آچه‌به» در این اثرشان به دوران استعمار و همچنین فساد در «آفریقا» پرداخته‌ اند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 17/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews610 followers
May 15, 2019
I 'finally' read this book - the 50th Anniversary Edition- THANK YOU for the book Loretta!!! I'm sorry it took me so long to read it!!!!
Interesting timing for me, too, having just read "NW" by Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- and a couple of
James Baldwin books recently---plus, yesterday was Martin Luther King's day.
African identity, nationalism, decolonization, racism, sexism, competing cultural systems, languages -and dialogue, social political issues have been in my space!!

I didn't know what to expect...."may be Africa's best-loved novel...For so many readers around the world, it is Chinua Achebe who opened up the magic casements of African fiction" ----by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

After I read this book -- joining thousands and thousands of others around the world feeling disturbed & conflicted when I read lines like this:
"I will not have a son who cannot hold up his head in the gathering of the clan. I would sooner strangle him with my own hands. And if you stand staring at me like that, he swore, Amadiora will break your head for you".
...... I wanted to 'also' read more about Kwame Anthony Appiah.... Who taught philosophy and African American studies at Yale and Harvard. He helped give me a broader understanding of this book.
He studied ethics around the world. Things he had to say about "kindness to strangers", made sense to me.
It is not for 'us' to save the poor and starving, but up to their own governments. Nation-states must assume responsibility for their citizens.

In "Things Fall Apart", western culture is portrayed as arrogant and ethnocentric. Their culture was vulnerable to the western civilization.

With so much sadness and tragedy in his culture, growing up as he did in .. China Achebe ( who wrote in English), was amazing!!!!!
He continues to have influence on other African novelists today..... inspiring writers around the world. Readers too!

Never too late to read "Things Fall Apart"
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
580 reviews4,080 followers
July 18, 2020
Buf, me ha encantado este libro.
Ha sido una auténtica sorpresa porque no esperaba que fuera a gustarme tanto, pero ¡Que bien escribe Achebe!
Esta es la historia de Okonkwo y cómo su sociedad se desmorona tras la colonización del hombre blanco. Okonkwo es un personaje realmente odioso en muchos aspectos, representa la parte más extrema de su sociedad, el guerrero perfecto que cumple todas las normas a rajatabla y desprecia todo lo que no encaja con su estandar de lo que debe ser un hombre. Cómo el autor logra que termines empatizando con Okonkwo y sintiendo verdadera pena y lástima por todo lo que ocurre... es impresionante.
Es una descripción terrible de lo que es la caída de una civilización.
El libro está plagado de costumbres, refranes, leyes, detalles de una sociedad que en pocos años cambió drásticamente y fue desterrada.
Un libro que ha ido creciendo en mi según iba avanzando la lectura y que me ha impresionado mucho más de lo que esperaba. Sin duda seguiré con la Trilogía Africana de Achebe.
Profile Image for Mohammed  Ali.
475 reviews1,139 followers
March 14, 2019
إذا كنت تبحث عن رواية مليئة بالأحداث، عامرة بالإثارة، يتصاعد فيها نسق التشويق والحماس بمرور الصفحات .. فدعني أخبرك بأنّك لست في المكان المناسب.
إذا كنت تبحث عن رواية خيالية، تأخذك إلى عوالم غريبة، صفتها الخيال ولونها الإبتكار .. فدعني أخبرك بأنّ بحثك هنا لا طائل منه.
إذا كنت تبحث عن رواية دوستويفسكية الروح، تغوص في النّفس البشرية وتحللها، مليئة بالإقتباسات العظيمة .. فدعني أخبرك بأن رجاء لا تضيع وقتك هنا.
أمّا إذا كنت تبحث عن رحلة ساحرة في قارة ساحرة، تتنوّع فيها الثقافات وتختلف باختلاف طبيعتها الفريدة .. فدعني أخبرك بأنّك قد وصلت .. فأهلا وسهلا ومرحبًا بك.

نعم .. أهلا بك في إفريقيا الساحرة..

إنّها إفريقيا الأرض المظلومة المنهوبة ذات التاريخ العريق. إفريقيا التـّي طالما عانت من النظرات العنصرية لها؛ سواء نحن أبنائها العاقّين، الأبناء الذين الذين احتضنتنا هذه القارة واحاطتنا بخيرات اودعها فيها الخالق عز وجل، ولكننا نكرنا الجميل وعيرناها بما هو ليس عار، عيرناها بالفقر ونسينا دورنا، بالمرض ونسينا تأثيرنا، بالجدب ونسينا استنزافاتنا. ونظرات الغير المختلف من ابناء القارات الأخرى الذين لا يذكرون إسم القارة إلا ملتصقا بصفة هي: السمراء، وحال هو: الفقر. فيقولون السمراء الفقيرة وهم لا يعلمون إن السواد جمال وعفة، وأن الفقر لم يأتي هكذا بل سببه قرون من تليها قرون من الإستعمار الظالم، المتوحش، الناهب، الغاصب، الماص لكل مورد في هذه القارة العجيبة.

ولكن لنترك حديث القارة وأشجانها ونتحدث عن الرواية وأشيائها المتداعية .. تلك الأشياء التي تصرف عليها سنين عمرك الفاني، وأثمن لحظاتك الزائلة، وساعات طوال متلاحقة. إنها ذلك الشخص الذي تفعل من أجله المستحيل، وتصارع الصعب، وتخاطر بكل الأماني والآمال .. وفي النهاية يذهب هكذا ببساطة مديرا رأسه عنك، كأنك لم تفعل وكأنه لم يعرفك أبدا. إنها ذلك الهدف الذي وضعته في رأسك، فتستحضره في كل مكان وزمان؛ قبل النوم وبعده، في يومك وليلك، فتنتطلق كالسهم نحوه تلقى المشاكل تلوى المشاكل؛ فتلقيها جانبا لأنك حللتها وخرقتها وكيف لا والقوة الدافعة هنا عظيمة جبارة، وفجأة يتداعى ذلك الهدف فتصبح حياتك بعد ذلك خواء ما بعده خواء. إنها تلك الحياة التي ألفتها وألِفتك، وألْفتك سائرا فيها تقوم بما يجب عليك القيام به مراعيا شروطها وقوانينها، وراضيا بعاداتها التي لبستها لتضع لنفسك معنى ووجود.

ثم تحطم كل شيء وتتداعى .. نعم تحطم وتتداعى بمجيء الرجل الأبيض إلى القارة السمراء، ليضع سكينه الحادة على أطراف واواصر مجمتمعاتها فقطعها ومزقها، ووضع فأسه في بطنها فبقرها لتسيل الموارد منها وتتدفق غزيرا كثيرا؛ فقام بنهبها واستغلالها وبناء نفسه منها. وواصل ولم يتوقف بعد تفكك المجتمعات وضياع الموارد بل أخذ البشر أنفسهم واستعبدهم قرونا بعد قرون، صانعا لنفسه أسطورة السيد الآمر الناهي ملك العالم. تحطم كل شيء وتتداعى هو عنوان روايتنا هذه وفكرتها وجوهرها. تحطم كل شيء ولم يعد هناك أي شيء يستحق أن يُفعل من أجله أي شيء .. آه ما أصعب الأشياء عندما تتداعى!!

هذه الرواية جعلتني أراجع نفسي قليلا وأعيد ضبط علاقتي مع الأدب الإفريقي .. الذي للأسف تأثر بعدوى النظرة العنصرية فلم يحجز لنفسه مكانا في قراءاتي السابقة.
أحيانا كلمة واحدة تفتح حياة جديدا، فصلا جديدا أو طريقا مختلفا .. وهنا هذه الرواية فتحت لي آفاق وعوالم غنية، هي آفاق وعوالم الأدب الإفريقي من شماله إلى جنوبه، ومن شرقه إلى غربه .. بعربه وعجمه.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,283 followers
June 26, 2020
In a word, I disliked this book. But before my criticisms I should start with some positives.

Achebe is a solid writer. As a result, Things Fall Apart is never painful to read—at least in terms of prose. And it must be said that there are occasional moments in this book which are very strong. Achebe has a talent for vignettes, and there are a few episodes in this book that are exciting, engaging, and stay with you.

Yet if Achebe is good at vignettes, he is a weak storyteller. This book hardly has a plot. Things happen, then more things happen, and then it ends. It is a series of episodes whose sum is less than the individual parts. There is no conflict, goal, or struggle that unifies this string of events. Now, some authors do this intentionally, and plotless novels can be wonderful; but I got the impression that this was the result of a lack of technique or vision, rather than an artistic choice.

The plot is haphazard. Except for Okonkwo, the protagonist, the cast is ever-revolving. Every time Achebe wants something to happen in the story, he summons a character to appear and bring it about. He does not allow any tension or pressure to build, but things happen all at once with no warning and with short-lived consequences. The result is not compelling: merely a deflationary string of anticlimaxes. The ending of the book is exemplary in this respect. No buildup, no warning, no pathos, just an out-of-the-blue event which seems contrived as a way to end the book.

A bit of well-placed foreshadowing could have substantially improved Things Fall Apart. That would have unified the story and allowed Achebe to build expectations. Instead, since the story is so chaotic, the audience has no expectations at all. And it is impossible to be surprised without expectation.

Another major flaw is the protagonist. I think it was bad judgment on Achebe’s part to use Okonkwo—an example of toxic masculinity if there ever was one—as the story’s hero. There is nothing likable about him. He is not a tragic hero, because a tragic hero has a fatal flaw, whereas Okonkwo is flawed all the way down. You can hardly empathize with the guy, since he himself seems devoid of empathy.

As with many flawed books, then, what saves this one is its brevity. Even so, apart from whatever aesthetic merits or demerits one can find—largely a matter of taste and judgment—I think that the message of the book was extremely muddled. At the very least, the moral seems rather different than how it is normally portrayed.

Specifically, if Achebe was trying to show the evils of colonialism, I think that he did an awful job. Again, the protagonist, Okonkwo, is a dreadful, disturbed, and depressed human being. Because we partially experience the Ibo culture through his eyes, the result is a dreadful, disturbed, and depressing picture of the culture. What “things” are supposed to be falling apart? The general impression one gets of the pre-colonial villages is of an unpredictable chaos; when the colonialists arrive there is just chaos of a different sort.

More then that, Achebe seems to be fascinated by the violent side of the Ibo, and spends the large majority of the first half bringing this home to the reader. In particular, there is an event near the beginning which seems deliberately aimed at making the reader disgusted at Okonkwo and the people of his village. The episode plays no other role in the plot. Meanwhile, both of the white missionaries are depicted as courageous, selfless, and heroic. The villagers, by contrast, are depicted as violent, incompetent, and confused. And since Okonkwo is against the Christians, I was inclined to root for them, as I wanted nothing more than for him to lose. As an anti-colonial work, then, I found this book to be ludicrously ineffective.

To sum up, this book is a quick and relatively painless read. There are some undeveloped germs of good ideas. But on the whole, it is poorly executed and poorly conceived.
Profile Image for Guille.
785 reviews1,749 followers
January 19, 2020
El relato tiene un claro carácter documental. Un narrador aséptico, aunque con licencia para poetizar, nos detalla la vida tribal en el África occidental de finales del siglo XIX utilizando como elemento “novelizador” la vida de Okonkwo, gran guerrero y hombre prominente de la tribu que asiste al desmoronamiento de su vida en el contexto del total y brutal desmoronamiento del mundo en el que vive.

Lo primero y lo que más llama la atención es la forma cruda en la que la novela rompe con esa visión un tanto paternalista del buen salvaje viviendo en el paraíso, todo concordia y felicidad. La sociedad que describe Achebe no tiene nada de salvaje y sí muchas razones para su reprobación. Fuertemente jeraraquizada, la sociedad estaba sujeta a estrictos ritos y tradiciones basados en un sinfín de supersticiones y costumbres ancestrales que muchas veces eran de dudosa eficacia y con frecuencia claramente censurables. Hasta el más respetuoso con la diferenciación cultural no puede sino llevarse las manos a la cabeza ante costumbres como la de sacrificar a los nacimientos gemelares o que ciertos delitos sean compensados con la entrega de familiares, generalmente jóvenes, al miembro damnificado de la tribu, y que a veces acababan siendo sacrificados en beneficio de la comunidad de acogida, o el estado de esclavitud en el que vivían las mujeres o el trascendental papel que jugaban sacerdotes, sacerdotisas, hechiceros o adivinadores en la observancia de las estrictas normas de cumplimiento establecidas casi para cada acto por cotidiano que este sea.

Tampoco reinaba la fraternidad en las relaciones intertribales, no siendo raras las guerras en las que los mejores guerreros se vanagloriaban de las cabezas cortadas que llevaban a sus casas como trofeos y que llegaban a ser utilizadas como recipientes para sus bebidas. Y aun así, las tribus llevaban siglos manteniendo una armonía social solo alterada por algunos pocos individuos incapaces de atenerse a las normas o de prosperar en ellas. Estos miembros marginales fueron los débiles eslabones de la cadena que misioneros y colonizadores rompieron mediante su evangelización iniciando así el desmoronamiento social de sus tribus.

Aunque no pueda decir que la novela me haya seducido literariamente hablando, es indudable que es una narración muy interesante por su contenido. Más allá de todo lo dicho sobre el choque cultural quiero terminar haciendo mención de esos pequeños y espléndidos cuentos que el autor va intercalando en la historia a modo de fábulas morales que eran transmitidos oralmente de padres a hijos.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,218 reviews1,962 followers
December 6, 2018
A real tour de force; but a plain tale simply told. Achebe illustrates and explains rather than judges and provides a moving and very human story of change and disintegration. Set in Nigeria in the nineteenth century it tells the story of Okonkwo and his family and community. He is a man tied to his culture and tradition and fighting to be different to his father. He is strong and proud and unable to show his feelings. His courage and rashness get him into trouble with his community and traditions. The book also charts the coming of Christian missionaries to the area and the effects they had; especially in attrating those who were outcast and of low status. Okonwko's fate is tragic and is representative of the destruction of his culture.
I have been puzzled to read some of the negative reviews that just don't seem to get it; saying it is too alien(??), too simple, badly written and so on. Part of Achebe's genius is that he tells the tale like all good writers; he explains when he has too and creates nuanced characters. The white missionaries are not unthinking or one-dimensional; just convinced they are right. Okonwko is also nuanced; unable to show the feelings he clearly has (especially to his daughter) and so eager to be strong and to lead that he is unable to be compassionate like his peers. Achebe does not judge; he charts the decline of a culture. He is not saying one side is entirely good or bad and there are elements to shock (the treatment of twins) and areas of great strength.
The brilliance is in the capturing of a period of change and cataclysm in the Ibo culture; but it is also a simple father/son relationship story. Achebe powerfully shows that like many of the greatest authors, he has the ability to put complex ideas across simply.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,992 followers
December 31, 2018
4 Stars from what I remembered from reading this in high school
3 Stars from rereading it now

This book is a classic that is on a lot of required reading lists. I can understand that as it gives a fictional glimpse into the Westernization of Africa. A topic like this is very heavy, controversial, and important – because of this, a tale in this genre is going to have a big impact and will easily make its way to must read status.

When I read it in high school, I think I enjoyed it more than now because the style of writing and subject matter were different than the typical high school reading. Also, back then I was much more interested in politics – in our current world, while I know stories like this are important, I tend to immediately shy away from being deeply interested in politically controversial stories. That doesn’t lessen the quality of writing or the message!

When I read it this time, it felt very clinical and not very riveting. I know that some of the story was to lay the background of the people and how they lived, but it had trouble holding my interest. The book is only about 200 pages but it felt like it took forever to read. A couple of times I got done with a chapter feeling like I must have put a huge dent in it for the day, but when I went to update my status, I had only read 10 pages!

Interesting side note: I remember the project I had to do for this book in high school was to write my own Clif Notes for the book. It was and enjoyable project, but I don’t think I did very good!
Profile Image for M.L. Rudolph.
Author 6 books91 followers
May 10, 2012
1959. Love it or hate it, Achebe's tale of a flawed tribal patriarch is a powerful and important contribution to twentieth century literature.

Think back to 1959. Liberation from colonial masters had not yet swept the African continent when this book appeared, but the pressures were building. The US civil rights movement had not yet erupted, but the forces were in motion. Communism and capitalism were fighting a pitched battle for control of hearts and minds, for bodies and land, around the world. Africans would suffer under the proxy wars waged there to keep the Cold War cold.

Achebe tells the tale of Okonkwo, a young man of some fame throughout the nine villages and beyond, for his wrestling prowess. He is a product of his land, his culture, his religion, and his people. He represents a way of life which admires and rewards strength, loyalty, hard work, a strong hand, and strict adherence to a social code.

He builds his life, takes wives, works his land, produces boys and girls to honor and carry on his legacy. When duty to the tribe makes demands, he must respond even if that response requires great personal sacrifice.

You can't read this book through the prism of your own experience. Part of the mystery of fiction from cultures far afield from your own is the chance it affords to consider how men and women of a certain time and place grappled with the very human issue of living within an exotic social group.

Consider your own social group, and imagine how you would explain your daily and exceptional actions to someone from another religion, from another country, from another language group, from another generation, from another century. Where would you start? Perhaps by considering how you spend a normal day, then how you arrived at the great choices that formed your life. That's a helluva task to set yourself. In my humble opinion, that was the task Achebe set for himself in writing this book.

Profile Image for Blaine.
782 reviews658 followers
February 17, 2023
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.

The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.

If you don't like my story, write your own.
Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, has the reputation of being the first great African novel. Set in the late 1800s, the story revolves around Okonkwo, a prominent farmer and community leader who has worked hard since he was forced to fend for himself at an early age after his deadbeat father died young. But Okonkwo worries that the next generation does not respect tradition. Worse, British Missionaries have arrived, threatening to destroy village life as they know it.

There are some timeless themes explored in this novel. And the writing is technically strong, subtle and full of symbolism (yams, anyone?). That said, Things Fall Apart is a tough read in 2019. First, at least half the book is a rather detailed account of daily village life that, candidly, did not interest me very much (so many yams). In this respect, it reminded me of the exhaustive sections on island life in Robinson Crusoe. Far more importantly, the book suffers because Okonkwo is a rather reprehensible character. Because of his fear of being weak like his father, he cultivates a fiery temper. He regularly beats his wives; his family is afraid of him. He can think of no greater insult for a man than to call him a woman.

Things Fall Apart is not the type of novel I typical read, as I generally opt for a bit lighter fare. I read it because I'm working my way through the Pop Chart 100 Essential Novels, which is the point: to force myself to read classics outside of my wheelhouse. I respect its status as a groundbreaking classic, but this book just did not work for me. I understand it’s the first of a trilogy, but I don’t plan to read the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Sherif Metwaly.
467 reviews3,515 followers
May 12, 2016

أفريقيا الساحرة

القارة السمراء ، المهضوم حقها فنياً وأدبياً
يخرج منها عمل أدبى من أجمل ماقرأت

لعل أجمل ما ميّز نجيب محفوظ ، وجعله على قمة الكُتّاب المصريين والعرب أجمعين، وجعله واحد من أعلام الكتابة فى العالم ،
هو قدرته الساحرة على رسم صورة المجتمع المصرى والحارة المصرية بكل تفاصيلها
وهذا مافعله الكاتب هنا
الكاتب نجح ببراعة فى استغلال موهبته الأدبية لرسم صورة كاملة للحياة فى أفريقيا وبالتحديد فى نيجيريا .
فيتخذ من قرية " أوموفيا " نموذجاً يوضح من خلاله الإطار العام للحياة فى ظلال هذا المجتمع تماماً كما فعل محفوظ مع الحارة المصرية حينما اتخدها نموذجاً لتوضيح معالم المجتمع المصرى

وماجعل الصورة كاملة بحق ، هو انه تعرض لأدق التفاصيل فى حياة أهل القرية
من أسلوب حياتهم ومسكنهم ، إلى مراسم دفنهم لموتاهم
وعقائدهم الدينيه ، وأكلهم وشربهم ، عملهم وتجارتهم
حياة كاملة تنبض بين الصفحات فى هذه الرواية

تحكى الرواية قصة مأساة " أوكونكو" أحد أقطاب قبيلة " أوبى " فى قرية " أوموفيا "
فيسرد الكاتب بأسلوبه الممتع سيرة أوكونكو منذ نشأته الأولى ، وجهاده ، وعمله المتصل ليصل إلى مركز مرموق فى القبيلة

وتتوالى الأحداث متعرضة لحياة أوكنوكو مع أبنائه وزوجاته الثلاث ، موضحاً الكاتب من خلالها الأبعاد الكاملة لشخصية أوكونكو .
فهو المصارع البطل ، والزوج العادل ، والأب العطوف.. بالرغم مما يبديه دائماً من الشدة والقسوة لأبنائه وزوجاته

وتمر الأيام ،ويتورط أوكونكو فى جريمة تقضى عليه بالنفى لمدة سبع سنوات خارج القبيلة
ثم تمر فترة العقوبة التى حدث فيها الكثير من الأحداث لاداعى لحرقها ، ويعود لقبيلته فيكتشف أن الدين المسيحىّ يتوغل فى قبيلته، وينصدم بانقلاب الحال فى القبيلة التى انقسمت مابين مؤيد ومعارض للدين المنافى لتقاليد الآلهة القديمة
وتتوالى الأحداث تباعاً فى صراع مابين التقاليد والدين الجديد ومابين كهنة الآلهة القديمة ودعاة الدين المسيحى .. حتى تأتى النهاية

تقول المترجمة فى مقدمة الرواية ، واتفق معها بشدة فى هذا الكلام
أن من أسرار جمال الرواية ، الحيادية التامة من الكاتب تجاه الأحداث
ستتسائل كثيراً وأنت تقرأ ، مالموقف الذى يتخذه الكاتب من كل هذه الأحداث ؟
وهذا يعنى بالطبع أن الصورة وحدها هى التى تتحدث إلى القارئ ، بما فى هذه الحياة من قسوة وقيم خاطئة ، ومن بساطة وجمال وشاعرية

ذكرت سابقاً أن أجمل مالمسته فى الرواية ، التفاصيل .
واذا تحدثت عن بعض هذه التفاصيل
فأقول أن الكاتب تعرض لكل شئ يمكن تخيله فى الحياة الاجتماعية تقريباً
طقوس الزواج ، وطقوس الزراعة
الأطعمة المتمثلة فى ثمار معدودة كثمار" اليام "التى هى أهم الأطعمة
وثمار "الكولا " التى تقدم فى مراسم الترحيب بالضيوف

ومراسم الترحيب بالضيوف لها قصة وحدها
وخمر النخيل ، وحساء الفوفو ،وحساء الورقة المرة

ثم يتعرض للعقيدة والدين
والآلهة المتعددة التى يؤمنون بها ، فهناك اله للأرض والزراعة ، وهنالك اله للمطر ، وهناك اله للتلال والجبال
، وفوق كل هذا ، لكل شخص الهه الخاص به المسؤول عن حظه فى الحياة

نترك أمور الدين ونتكلم فى القضاء
فالقبيلة تلجأ فى حكمها إلى جماعة يزعمون أنهم اشخاص تلبستهم أرواح الأسلاف الحكيمة ويدعونهم " جماعة الأوجوجو "

وهى تتكون من تسعة اشخاص تخرج بزى مهيب فى ساحات القضاء للفصل بين الناس
ويتميزون عن باقى الناس بزيهم الذى يبعث رهبة فى نفوس كل من يراهم

والرسوم على الوجه ، والريش على الرأس ، والعصا التى تدق الأرض بحساب

ثم يتحدث عن العادات الغريبة التى يناقشها بحيادية تامة
مثل ولادة التوائم، وأن التوائم لعنة فى نظر الكهنة ،فكلما تلد امرأة توأم يتركونهم فى غابة موحشة لإرضاء الآلهة .
وأن من يقتل أحداً بالخطأ يُنفى من القبيلة لسنوات
إلى آخره من من التفاصيل والتفاصيل التى ترسم المجتمع بصورة كاملة تجعلك تشعر أنك تعيش فى الرواية أثناء القراءة
أنا عن نفسى شعرت أنى فى أفريقيا بكامل إدراكى وانا أقرأ الرواية . وهذا دليل على سحر الرواية وتمكن الكاتب

حتى الجمال والحب الأفريقى .. رسمه الكاتب بطريقة من اجمل مايكون

الرجال ربما يتزوجون تسع زوجات فى وقت واحد ومع ذلك تُكِنّ له كل منهن حباً ووفاءً لا مثيل له
كل زوجة تحب ضُرّتها ، وتحب أبناء زوجها من زوجاته الأخريات
والزوج يبادلهن هذا الحب ، فتجده يحرص على أن تطهى له كل زوجة منهن وجبة كاملة فى كل موعد للطعام ، ولايردّ طعام أى منهن ، بل يأكل من كل الأطباق ومن أيدى كل الزوجات باعثاً فى أنفسهن الرضا والسرور ومقدراً لحب كل واحدة ، مطبقاً العدل والمساواة بينهن

ترجمة الرواية من أجمل مايكون ، رغم أن المترجمة ذكرت فى المقدمة أن السبب فى قلة اهتمام العالم بالأدب الأفريقى هو أن معظم مايكتبه الأفريقيون يكتبوه باللغات المحلية ، وهى لغات كثيرة جداً ومختلفة عن بعضها ومعقدة للغاية .
وأن مانجح فى الانتشار من الأدب الافريقى لايتعدى الأعمال التى تُكتب باللغة الانجليزية لأفارقة مهاجرين أو غيرها من اللغات الأجنبيه المعروفة ، ومهما كان .. فهم قليلون مقارنةً بالكتاب الأفارقة المتأصّلين فى افريقيا ذاتها

هذه الرواية ساحرة ، مفعمة بالتفاصيل والحكايات الممتعة
تكشف عن عالم ربما لم تقرأ عنه من قبل ،وربما لن تقرأ عنه فيما بعد كثيراً
رواية نجحت فى الوصول لشمس الشهرة إلى حد ما ، وسط آلاف الأعمال الأفريقية الأخرى التى تعثرت فى الوصول للعالمية
ولكنها مع ذلك كانت كفيلة لـ لفت انتباه العالم إلى أن افريقيا موجودة على خريطة ا��أدب
وأن افريقيا تستحق اهتماماً من القُرّاء وعالم الأدب بشكل عام أكثر من ذلك بكثير

Profile Image for leynes.
1,116 reviews3,033 followers
June 17, 2021
Oh boy, where do I start? I read Things Fall Apart (the entire African Trilogy acutally) this year for Black History Month. So quite a bit of time has passed already and I am unhappy to report that the story hasn’t really left a lasting impression on me. I have forgotten many plot points and had to consult many secondary sources in order to write this review. I definitely want to reread Things Fall Apart when I am older, I think it’s one of those books that, to put it into Calvino’s words, “has never exhausted what it has to say”; it is definitely a most important document in the history of African literature, and I think I’ll appreciate it even more later in life.

Before Things Fall Apart was released, most of the novels about Africa had been written by European authors, portraying Africans as savages who were in need of Western enlightenment. Achebe, who had studied English literature at university, quickly realised that there was a “gap in his bookshelf” where African literature should have been. Thus far, novels of the caliber of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness were the custom when it came to descriptions of Africa in literature … and we all know what Achebe thought of Conrad and his notion of Africans as “rudimentary souls.” So, I think we can all agree with Achebe, that he and all the other African writers of the time were incredibly brave and needed to finally fill that gap.

Things Fall Apart was written in 1958 as the colonial system was falling apart in Africa. Its story chronicles pre-colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, one of the first to receive global critical acclaim. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and is widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world.

The novel follows the life of Okonkwo, an Igbo man and local wrestling champion in the fictional Nigerian clan of Umuofia. The work is split into three parts, with the first describing his family, personal history, and the customs and society of the Igbo, and the second and third sections introducing the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the Igbo community.
“Does the white man understand our custom about land?” “How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? 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.”
I have to admit that I found it incredibly hard, at first, to keep track of what was happening in the story. I might be at fault here because I definitely didn’t read it as attentively as I could have, but the reader has to get through a large portion of info dumbs and various introductions of characters in the first few chapters of this novel. It is very palpable that Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart with a Western audience in mind. He explains to us certain festivities and traditions in a very straightforward way. He introduces us to the Ancestral religion and different gods, he explains how a bride price is decided, how certain pieces of clothing are worn and how certain instruments look and are being played. Being from the West, those explanations were definitely needed and came in handy, nonetheless, they interrupted the flow of the story and more often than not pulled me out of it. Having read the remainder of The African Trilogy, I can attest that those info dumbs became less and less as the books move along, and thus made a much more enjoyable overall reading experience for me possible, since most things are somewhat understandable through context.

Achebe wrote his novels in English because the written standard Igbo language was created by combining various dialects, creating a stilted written form. In a 1994 interview with The Paris Review, Achebe said, "the novel form seems to go with the English language. There is a problem with the Igbo language. It suffers from a very serious inheritance which it received at the beginning of this century from the Anglican mission. They sent out a missionary by the name of Dennis. Archdeacon Dennis. He was a scholar. He had this notion that the Igbo language—which had very many different dialects—should somehow manufacture a uniform dialect that would be used in writing to avoid all these different dialects. Because the missionaries were powerful, what they wanted to do they did. This became the law. But the standard version cannot sing. There's nothing you can do with it to make it sing. It's heavy. It's wooden. It doesn't go anywhere.”

Achebe's choice to write in English has caused controversy. While both African and non-African critics agree that Achebe modelled Things Fall Apart on classic European literature, they disagree about whether his novel upholds a Western model, or, in fact, subverts or confronts it. Personally, I also remain undecided on this issue. Achebe continued to defend his decision: "English is something you spend your lifetime acquiring, so it would be foolish not to use it. Also, in the logic of colonization and decolonization it is actually a very powerful weapon in the fight to regain what was yours.” And I definitely can’t fault him for that logic, I actually quite agree with it. Nonetheless, throughout the book it also becomes clear that Achebe tried to adhere to the Western standard, in all probability to be respected as a serious author, and I can’t fault him for that either.
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.
He admits himself that the usage of the opening stanza of William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming,” from which the title of the novel is taken, as an epigraph to Things Fall Apart, was purely done for show. He says: “Actually, I wouldn’t make too much of that. I was showing off more than anything else. As I told you, I took a general degree, with English as part of it, and you had to show some evidence of that.”

Apart from that, Things Fall Apart suffer from the “unlikeable characters”-syndrome. There are simply not many people to root for in this novel. Okonkwo is strong, hard-working, and strives to show no weakness, but he is also obsessed with his masculinity. He sees (and treats) his wives as inferior. As a result, he often beats his wives and children, and is unkind to his neighbours. I was quite prepared for Achebe to show the patriarchal structures of village life, and don’t fault him for showing it how it was, nonetheless, that prevented me from showing to much empathy toward Okonkwo. Unfortunately, the female characters truly take the backseat in this novel and I never really got a sense for their personality and therefore didn’t root form them either. Achebe doesn’t deem them important enough to make the according place for them within this narrative.
It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming—it’s own death.
One thing I absolutely adored about this book, however, was its ending. I know it might come across as quite gimmicky and “in-yo-face” but I think that Achebe achieved what he wanted to show in the most straightforward way.

This sentence, which concludes the novel, satirizes the entire tradition of Western ethnography and imperialism itself as a cultural project, and it suggests that the ethnographer in question, the District Commissioner, knows very little about his subject and projects a great deal of his European colonialist values onto it. The language of the commissioner’s proposed title reveals how misguided he is: that he thinks of himself as someone who knows a great deal about pacifying the locals is highly ironic, since, in fact, he is a primary source of their distress, not their peace.
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews431 followers
August 30, 2016
Maybe the best thing about Achebe's, Things Fall Apart, is that it give us a look at African culture from the inside, from their perspective, how they viewed the world around them and their place in it. Most of the African novels I've read give the outside view, the colonial or Christian view, which unfairly judges a people and a culture they couldn't possibly understand.

The story is set in the Nigerian village of Umuofia in the late 1800's. Since their culture is based on history and tradition, things were probably much the same as they had been for centuries. So when the outsiders arrived, mostly white, mostly European, and in the beginning mostly Christian, the shock was unimaginable and, in many ways, catastrophic.

The story revolves around the character Okonkwo, who dominates the narrative to the extent the book could have been titled Okonkwo. Dominate is the right word because that's Okonkwo's way. In village life, with his wives and children, he rules with an iron will. And when the "white man" shows up in the village, you knew that Okonkwo would be the wall of resistance.

If you are interested in African culture, historical fiction, good writing, well here is your book. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
943 reviews14k followers
September 7, 2016
I really enjoyed this book! It was the first book we read in my contemporary world literature class and it stirred some really good discussion. I'm all about any conversation in which I can discuss dismantling the patriarchy, and this book definitely dealt a lot with sexism, which is a topic I find infuriating yet interesting. The writing style was simple and quick to read, and although there wasn't an abundance of imagery, some of the similes/comparisons were really pretty! I thought this was a great book to discuss and it was really interesting as far as learning the culture and religion of Nigerian villages! I can't wait to read and discuss more books in this class!
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,633 followers
February 9, 2017
Achebe's classic is a quick and interesting read albeit with a depressingly realistic end. My curiosity will most likely lead me to more of his work and I enjoyed the narrative style. The ambiguities of cultural clash with an obvious misbalance of power and the two different kinda of brutality in the conflict were thought-provoking and painful to read because they were surely even worse in real life.
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