Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy Book 1) 01 Edition, Kindle Edition
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Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him.
Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
His early career in radio ended abruptly in 1966, when he left his post as Director of External Broadcasting in Nigeria during the national upheaval that led to the Biafran War. He was appointed Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and began lecturing widely abroad.
From 1972 to 1975, and again from 1987 to 1988, Mr. Achebe was Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and also for one year at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.
Cited in the London Sunday Times as one of the “1,000 Makers of the Twentieth Century” for defining “a modern African literature that was truly African” and thereby making “a major contribution to world literature,” Chinua Achebe has published novels, short stories, essays, and children’s books. His volume of poetry, Christmas in Biafra, written during the Biafran War, was the joint winner of the first Commonwealth Poetry Prize. Of his novels, Arrow of God won the New Statesman—Jock Campbell Award, and Anthills of the Savannah was a finalist for the 1987 Booker Prize. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece, has been published in fifty different languages and has sold more than two million copies in the United States since its original publication in 1959.
Mr. Achebe has received numerous honors from around the world, including the Honorary Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Foreign Honorary Membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as more than thirty honorary doctorates from universities in England, Scotland, the United States, Canada, Nigeria, and South Africa. He is also the recipient of Nigeria’s highest honor for intellectual achievement, the Nigerian National Order of Merit, and of Germany’s Friedenstreis des Beutschen Buchhandels for 2002.
Mr. Achebe lives with his wife in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where they teach at Bard College. They have four children and three grandchildren. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00C7EGV5U
- Publisher : Penguin; 1st edition (April 25, 2013)
- Publication date : April 25, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 342 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 226 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0385474547
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #89,217 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Admittedly, the first half of the novel does read more like an ethnographic account of daily Igbo life in the precolonial period than a conventionally structured novel. I still found it a fascinating and informative window into their culture, and it is nonetheless essential in characterizing the protagonist Okonkwo as well as demonstrating the damage that the British invasion of Nigeria will inflict in the second half of the book. To appreciate how things are going to fall apart for the Igbo community here, you need to understand what it was that would be broken in the first place.
If there was one aspect of the novel that I did not enjoy as much as the rest, it was that Okonkwo was a bit hard to like due to his sexist prejudice and the way he would beat his wives and children as punishment. He's not a one-dimensional brute for sure, and the book explains early on that he developed his attitude to avoid resembling a father he viewed as cowardly and impotent. Still, it might be rather upsetting for readers who have experienced domestic violence or abuse.
Top reviews from other countries
The thing is that Achebe’s depiction of those ways and traditions are so appalling that I found myself completely on the side of the colonisers, not a place I either expected or wanted to be! The perpetual beatings of wives and children paled into insignificance when compared to the frequent killings for no reason at the behest of the many seemingly cruel and unjust gods worshipped and feared by the people. Centuries of farming tradition and yet they hadn’t worked out any methods of crop irrigation or protection, leaving them entirely at the mercy of the elements and of those pesky gods. The customs of deciding that some people should be treated as outcasts for no discernible cause and, even worse, of throwing twins out at birth to be left to die in the open made me feel that anything had to have been better than this. Come the colonisers, and with them education, healthcare, and a religion that taught of a loving god, gave a place to the outcasts and saved the lives of the abandoned twins – sounds good to me! And that makes me feel bad, because of course I really ought to be up in arms about the iniquities of the colonisers, oughtn’t I?
I really struggled for at least half of this quite short book. It’s quite repetitive and although it’s certainly revealing and, I assume, honest about the life and traditions of the village, there’s very little in the way of story. I must say Achebe surprised me, though. I knew nothing about him except that he called Conrad a “thoroughgoing racist” for his portrayal of colonisation, and I assumed therefore that he would show the Africans in a positive light. I admire him, therefore, for not taking that easy route and instead giving a very harsh and unromanticised portrayal of life before the colonisers arrived. I suspect his real argument with Conrad was probably that Conrad often leaves the “natives” at the periphery of the picture, as if they are merely props on a stage set for the star actors in his dramas, the white men, and I certainly would agree with that assessment though I wouldn’t agree that that makes him racist. Achebe reverses this, putting the Africans as the central stars, with the colonisers having merely walk-on roles, and this has apparently influenced generations of African writers ever since the book was first published in 1958, making them realise the possibility of telling their own stories.
The story picks up in the second half, once the colonisers arrive. We see the mix of missionary and soldier, one trying to change the Africans through the influence of Christianity, the other controlling them at the point of the gun. We see any form of violent resistance met with a wholly disproportionate response, and the newly installed justice system being used as a thin veneer to camouflage total dominance. We see misunderstandings caused by a failure of each to attempt to understand the other’s culture, and those misunderstandings often escalating to murder or massacre. Again, Achebe doesn’t make this entirely one-sided. While obviously the military might of the colonisers is by far the greater, he shows that many of the Africans are attracted to the things they offer, whether that be a better life or simply the pleasure that comes from being on the side of the more powerful, especially to those who have been treated as outcasts by their own society.
Through Okonkwo and the older villagers, we see their despair at the destruction of the old ways, and from a male perspective I could certainly sympathise with that. But from a female perspective, I couldn’t help but feel that the women would have had less to regret – on the basis of Achebe’s depiction, they lacked all political power and had little influence even in the domestic sphere, not to mention the accepted tradition that husbands ought to beat their wives regularly. (Not, of course, that that tradition was exclusive to Africans...)
I can’t say I wholeheartedly enjoyed it, either for the very bleak portrayal of the life of the Africans, nor for any particular literary merit. It is well written but not exceptionally so and the structure makes it feel rather unbalanced, with what story there is all happening towards the end. What makes it stand out is the rare centrality of the Nigerian people in their own story, and the, to me, unexpected even-handedness with which Achebe treats both Africans and colonisers. For those reasons, and because it’s considered an African classic by the “father of African literature”, I’m glad to have read it.
Taking place in a fictional Nigerian village, at some point during the Victorian era, it is the tale of Okonkwo, a proud, alpha-male patriarch, who is brought down when his age-old values and beliefs come up against Western attitudes, with the arrival of Christian missionaries and colonial governors.
Achebe is unsentimental about the more brutal and irrational aspects of African traditionalism (e.g. twins being seen as cursed), but once one grows accustomed to his studiedly unadorned style and the unapologetically insular perspective, one finds oneself utterly involved. Re-reading it after many years, I was struck both by the tragic inevitability of its hero's downfall, and the even-handedness of the story-telling.
Its reputation as one of the most significant novels of the 20th century is certainly merited.
I really like how it doesn't paint the villagers/villages as one homogeneous group as is the tendency of textbooks. The very ending is superb. Highly recommend.
The first part is about Okonkwo growing up and the way of life (all aspects, including beliefs, traditions, societal structures, divisions of labour and even food) in a traditional southern Nigerian village. It ends with Okonkwo, due to a tragic accident, being exiled from the village for seven years and moving with his immediate family to the village his mother came from.
The second part, covering the seven years of Okonkwo’s exile, sees the arrival of the “white men”, initially a soft approach by Christian missionaries, seeking converts, and, subsequently, colonial government, gradually imposing British laws and justice on the indigenous people.
In the third part, Okonkwo returns to his home, at the end of his seven years of exile, to find that everything has changed, with the missionaries and colonial government firmly ensconced and telling Okonkwo’s people that everything about their religion, culture and traditions is wrong and has to change. The colonisers toughen up their approach, leading to a clash of cultures and religions and, ultimately, disaster.
This is a powerful and compelling read; it is not an easy read, not least because of frequent use of Ibo language and concepts and traditions which are not fully explained, but is certainly a rewarding one, giving a strong and clear view of the impact of colonisation from the perspective of the colonised.
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
When the clash of the traditional rules and customs of the Nigerian world in the late nineteenth century is confronted by the, at first relatively gentle, intrusion of Christianity, the foundations upon which the Umuofia’s village’s traditions have their roots start to be called into question. However, the novel’s reach goes far beyond the collision of Nigerian and western values. This is no politically crusading account. The drama of the book is worked out far more within the central character, Okonkwo. It is as much a personal as a political/social tragedy.
The book is beautifully written with a simplicity and words from the Ibo language that shunt aside any hint of pretension. Much of what we discover about the traditional Igbo way of life is brutal and shocking, not least the situation of women, who nonetheless hold significantly indirect power. Okonokwo, himself, is wedded to the strength and power he saw thrown aside in his feckless, drunken father’s neglect of any personal pride. In turn this desperate fight against signs of weakness within himself and others is to prove his nemesis The two worlds that are given increasingly sharp definition are so far apart as to defy any realistic understanding.
This simply written, yet subtle novel deserves every bit of its reputation as a classic of world literature.