Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
African Literature ; (209 pgs)
Anchor Books Publishing
All the way from Nigeria comes one of the most prominent and pivotal novels of African literature. It is considered the 'archetypal modern African novel.' Everyone reads it, well, almost anyway, but it has sold 8 million copies worldwide - or something along those numbers (according to wikipedia). The point is that everyone who is anyone in the book world knows about this novel as not only one of the must-reads in African literature, but also literature in general.
The reasons for this novel having such powerful influence over the literary world stems, ultimately, from the main themes of the two parts in the book. In the first part of the novel, Achebe reveals the story of Okonkwo's life. His life is a constant battle between individual and society just as much as it is a struggle of family ties and personal battles. These themes alone were enough to hook me to the novel. The novel definitely makes you think about what makes a man's characters. On top of which, there is also the question of whether we can really give Okowko enough sympathy and empathy to see him beyond his evil ways.
The second part of the novel has even more powerful themes. It deals with the clash of cultures, the aggressive arrival of a foreign culture to overtake and change an existing society's ways of life from religion to family dynamics. The novel describes in detail the intrusiveness of a Western government on the Igbo society with a look at the repercussions on that society when it happens.
This novel is a fantastic read. I read it with extreme ease. I didn't really get a chance to look at it analytically while I was reading it since I was captured by the novel. Now, in retrospect, I think I enjoyed the first part of the book much more. The second part made me cringe a little, and even the pace of the novel seems to slow down a little. Perhaps, both of those aspects are on purpose to force the reader to think twice about what they are reading. I think at first I was kind of perplexed as to why there was a division of parts. I would have wanted the novel to just move forward and transpire organically. Instead, the division (or transition) felt abrupt and sudden. I understand, now, that even the structure of the book is meant to signify or represent the ultimate message of the novel.
While this is one of those novels everyone should read since it is such a significant and prominent novel in all literature, especially African literature, I don't believe I will read it again anytime soon. Maybe I will come back to it. I would definitely recommend anyone else that has not read it, to read it. It was more than worth my time. It opened up the world of literature to me on a global scale. I discovered a style of writing that is far from my usual realm of preference, and enjoyed it. It left a mark on my perspective on life as I saw a culture I didn't much know about, from within its core....