Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Book Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I read this book before my freshman year of college, and the only thing I remember is that I didn’t really like it or “get” it. But now that I have lived amongst Nigerians for more than a year, I thought it might be worth revisiting. 

It’s a fictional (though certainly realistic) story of pre- and post-colonial tribal life in Nigeria. The man character, Okonkwo, is a self-made man who has three wives, many children, and a substantial compound. He enjoys great prosperity because of his hard work and is one of the most reputable members of his village. But then, as the title aptly states, things start to fall apart. Throughout the novel the reader gets a glimpse into traditional wedding practices, farming practices, domestic life, and religion (seemed like animism to me), as well as the effects of the white man and his religion (Christianity). At least from the viewpoint of a Nigerian. 

As I read it, I often chuckled to myself thinking about some of the stories my (mostly Westernized, mostly urban-dwelling) Nigerian friends have told about traditional village life. It was also cool to read with an understanding of the tribes, traditions, foods etc. In short, I just “got it” this time around. But it’s a great story regardless of your knowledge of Nigeria. 

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