Chinua Achebe - A Great Nigerian Writer & Novelist
Things Fall Apart - A Must Read
One of the most memorable books I have ever read was a literature book that was chosen school-wide by my high school English Literature Teacher. The name of the book is, Things Fall Apart. What really adhered me to this book are the events that took place in the book, the characters of the book, most of whom I could visualize whenever I read the book as some do bear some resemblance in character to the uncles I grew up knowing on my father's of the family.
Things Fall Apart was the brain child of a great Nigerian writer, Mr. Chinua Achebe. For those who do not know Chinua Achebe, let me give you a brief introduction of this great writer and poet.
Who Is Chinua Achebe?
Chinua Achebe was born in 1930 in the traditional Igbo village of Ogidi, in the then eastern Nigeria. He was a novelist, poet and an essayist. Achebe was raised a Christian after his parents converted to Christianity and went to a missionary school. As the practice was in most missionary schools in Nigeria, students were forbidden to speak their native language, and were often encouraged to abstain from all traditions that might be associated with a pagan way of life. But that didn't stop Achebe's mother and older sister from telling young Achebe ancient folk tales that were rooted deep in his Ibo traditions and ancestry.
These stories no doubt laid the foundation for his love of story telling through literature and novels as he will later described them as having "the immemorial quality of the sky, and the forests and the rivers".
Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"
To attempt to list all of Chinua Achebe's written work will be impossible for me to do as even I do not know all he's written, but some. His first book or novel and the one he is best known for was 'Things Fall Apart'.
This novel was published in 1958. It has since became a classic of world literature. Things Fall Apart has been translated into some 50 languages, and has sold over 11 million copies. The story is set in an Ibo village in Nigeria during colonial era, just as the Ibo people there had their first encounters with European Christian Missionaries.
It tells of the rise and fall of Okonkwo, an Ibo warrior, who is unable to adapt to the changing conditions in the early days of British rule. Okonkwo, a self-made man who struggled between the old traditions and rituals of his culture, and the new, that is, the introduction of the Christianity brought by the missionaries of the colonial era.
In one of the scene in the novel, one of Okonkwo friend, Obierika, can be quoted saying, "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..." And when a clan can no longer act like one, it falls apart.
The Birth of Things Fall Apart
"Something needed to be done. Someone needed to tell my story, the story of my people."
Chinua Achebe, a man who at the time of colonial rule had graduated from the University College at Ibadan, had read countless books in literature. His love for books kept him often at his university's library. There he discovered and read Up From Slavery, the autobiography of an American former slave, by Booker T. Washington. He also read classic novels, such as Gulliver's Travels and David Copperfield, and many other books. In reading, he discovered a common theme among some of the books he read. The Africans are usually depicted as 'savages'. Achebe knew then that 'something needed to be done'.
You see, for a long time the story of Africans, its people, and the African cultures have always been told through the lens of the European writers and the colonial masters. Chinua Achebe believed that his place in the world was to tell his story, and the story of his people. And, by that, he meant, not just the Ibo people, but the story of Africans as it should be told.
This ideology of Chinua Achebe gave birth to Things Fall Apart. And, though the story of Things Fall Apart is about a people far away in the culture of eastern Nigeria, it has touched the lives of readers all over the world, even as far away in East Asia. These readers see in "Things Fall Apart" their own story of sufferings during colonial dictatorship and rule.
Things Fall Apart now sits on the shelves of most universities all over the world. I got to enjoy reading it again as a student of African-American Literature at Eastern Michigan University in the late 1900s, and it is still the most read literature book in most American high schools and colleges today. Some estimated 10 million copies have been sold, and obviously read.
Other novels would follow Things Fall Apart. No Longer at Ease, which was more like a sequel to Things Fall Apart was published in 1958. No Longer At Ease features the grandson of Okonkwo working for the British colonial civil service in the 1950s.
Some of his other written works are as follows, but not necessarily in sequence:
Arrow of God - Published in 1964
Girls At War
Home and Exile
Chike and the River
A Man of The People
Anthills of the Savannah
There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra
Chinua Achebe - Worth The Prize & More
Chinua Achebe's collection of Christmas in Biafra won him the Commonwealth poetry prize. In 1987, he was a finalist for the Booker prize for his novel Anthills of the Savannah, and in 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. Chinua Achebe has also written numerous essays that he's been recognized for.
Chinua Achebe - You Did Nigeria Proud!
Chinua Achebe used his writings to speak out again the injustices and corruption in the Nigerian government. Chinua Achebe died on March 21, 2013 following an illness and hospital stay in Boston, Massachusetts. He was 82 years old.
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Author: Comfort Babatola - ©2013
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