An African Masterpiece – “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
Nigerian author Chinua Achebe wrote “Things Fall Apart” in 1958. From there, the book became arguably the most famous African novel ever written. Studied widely in schools, it frequently makes Top 100 lists and is revered for many reasons.
In a village in Nigeria called Umuofia, people live by established rules and are happy. A local man named Okonkwo is a leader of the village and a renowned wrestler. After a boy from another village is given to his family to raise, and meets a violent death at Okonkwo’s hand, things seem to change for the local hero. “Things Fall Apart” covers years in his life as he presides over his family, watches his children grow, deals with missionaries trying to take over the village and convert the people, and eventually breaks a law of the land and winds up banished for years.
With a tragic and surprising ending, and characters easy to care about (including Okonkwo’s wives) it’s easy to understand why the book has had the impact it’s had. The book is an interesting look at a specific society, almost an anthropological study, while at the same time shining light on things that every society has in common – customs, family, religions, rules, food.
“Things Fall Apart” is definitely a book I’d recommend to people who want to read literature of other cultures. Sometimes it’s good to step outside books you know you’ll like and step into worlds you don’t know anything about.