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Paperback Things Fall Apart Book

ISBN: 0385474547

ISBN13: 9780385474542

Things Fall Apart

(Book #1 in the The African Trilogy Series)

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Book Overview

"A true classic of world literature . . . A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world." -- Barack Obama Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read Things Fall Apart is the first of three novels in Chinua Achebe's critically acclaimed African Trilogy. It is a classic narrative about Africa's cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Wrong edition sent to me. Beware: what you see may not be what you get!

Didn’t read yet. For my daughter’s ELA class.

Human tragedy amid the clash of civilisations

Chinua Achebe is an accomplished Nigerian writer. "Things Fall Apart" is reputed by Wikipedia to be the most widely read book in modern African literature and has made Achebe the most widely translated African writer of all time. The book deals with the impact of a foreign culture (the British Empire expanding into Nigeria) on the traditional ways of life and tribal beliefs of the Ibo people of Nigeria. History tells us who inevitably won that "clash of civilisations". In the book the destruction of a tribal community comes at the hands of well-meaning, but fundamentally arrogant, Christian missionaries, supported by the "civilising mission" of government officials. Many of the old Ibo beliefs and customs (at least as described by Achebe) were violent and superstitious. The superstition should be no problem for any objective reader - after all, it is simply a different form of spiritual belief to that which most Western readers will be used to, no worse and no better than any of the major religions, just different. Unfortunately for the Ibo, it was these very beliefs that the christian missionaries found repugnant - perhaps more so than the violence. However, it is the violence of men towards one another and towards women and children that will appal most modern readers. Of course, this is a work of fiction and the non-Nigerian reader has no hope of knowing how realistic is the traditional village culture portrayed. Nigerian readers will immediately be able to put it into the correct perspective. Without any other cultural background or context, books like this in the hands of the unthinking reader can perpetuate stereotypes and even do harm. There is already too much ignorance of, and intolerance to, the customs of other people. One has only to think of today's general ignorance and stereotyping of Muslims - and the general ignorance and stereotyping of Russians during the Cold War. Sadly, traditional customs and beliefs, even languages, are under increasing threat from the blandishments of the modern world. This is a pity. Most cultural beliefs have a valid place in the human community and are worthy of preservation, as an historical and anthropological record if nothing else. Many of the social and other problems that beset traditional peoples can be laid at the feet of the destruction of customs and beliefs. The challenge is not only to protect traditional customs, but also to do so in ways that are consistent with preventing violence in those communities. It is difficult, for example, to make any case in favour of female circumcision. On another level the book can be read as the human tragedy of the principal character, Okonkwo. To our eyes he is a flawed figure, but to his tribe he was an important man. Achebe's style is very spare and the text is pared to the bone, with few adjectives and adverbs. Sentence constructions are very simple - but not naïve or unsophisticated. Hemingway and other famous writers used a si

Impressively unbiased novel, for the most part

Ironically, I had picked up Things Fall Apart from the local library just before it happened to be assigned to me for a history class. I suppose I had good, if accidental, foresight. As others have said, Things Fall Apart is a relatively short novel told in a straightforward yet elegant manner. The voice works well for this particular narrative, much of which focuses on the customs and rites of the Ibo people in the village in which the protagonist, Okonkwo, lives. What I find most impressive about Things Fall Apart is the way it renders all perspectives; the book doesn't seem to glorify or demonize any one culture, and it really doesn't pick sides. The book deals with an Ibo tribe as well as a group of European imperialists, and it would be easy to depict one faction as being pure and noble and the other as evil or backwards. However, Things Fall Apart takes the high road by illustrating the complex continuum of both: Yes, the Ibo people have some practices which might seem "savage" to our modern Western mindsets, but they also have strong senses of morality and righteousness and Achebe depicts this admirably. Likewise, yes, some of the European imperialists seem cruel and dismissive of the Ibo people, but others of them genuinely seem to be motivated by the interest of evangelizing and doing what they believe to be right and noble. While the book itself may seem like a simplistic tale, there are deep, complex issues at work here--issues that lead to questions with no easy answers which Achebe, for his part, does not attempt to supply. That's just as well. Sometimes a book need only ask the questions and allow readers to come to their own conclusions. So what is Things Fall Apart about? Well, ostensibly, the book can be divided into two halves. The first half centres on the life of a man named Okonkwo, his wives, his children, and the practices of his tribe. Some readers will complain, and have complained, that the lack of focused, singular plot in the first half of the novel is a problem. I disagree. I don't believe that all works of fiction are required to have one singular, specific plot route and I believe it was Achebe's intent to set the stage for what happens in the second part of the novel. In the first half of the novel, the readers get acquainted with Okonkwo and the Ibo people. Meanwhile, the second half of Things Fall Apart focuses on Okonkwo's exile and his return from exile. For seven years, he has to leave his village and return to his mother's village (I won't say why here, so as not to spoil the detail for prospective readers), and when he comes back, he finds that European imperialism has drastically altered his own village, Umuofia. This leads to the novel's main conflict. Achebe renders the culture clash in a very intriguing manner, one which left me unsure of how I felt about the various events that unfolded. Because the earlier chapters showed the Ibo culture in such detail, considerable sympathy is placed on them, but a

Things Fall Into Place

The more the reader thinks about Things Fall Apart, the more he becomes aware that the heart of a story is about the struggles of an individual and less about what is a compelling and unsentimental survey of Nigeria's Ibo culture just before the arrival of white settlers. The story's protagonist is Okonkwo, who at first appears to be a model warrior and self-made man who slowly discovers that the attributes he believed would serve him well as an adult instead breed a fear of failure and profound frustration. He is a complex and heavy-handed head of his household who is at once sympathetic and cruel. Most of the story is told before the actual appearance of the first white settlers, but their pending arrival hangs over the middle part of the book like a rain cloud. By the time it actually happens in the last 50 or so pages of the book, Okonkwo has been driven into exile, his life a shambles. He has only a slim hope of redemption, and that is shattered by the arrival of the settlers. Okonkwo's story is a relevant one even at a time when cultural and political imperialism has turned away from Africa toward the Middle East, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. But more important than its relevance is its artistry: it is a deceptively simple epic tale somehow packed into just over 200 pages, and one of the most impressive first novels on record. Don't miss it.

One of the Best Books Ever Written - Great African Novel!

I was required to read this book in a college literature class and actually dreaded reading it because I really had no interest in Africa. After reading this book by the amazingly talented Chinua Achebe, I became more interested in Africa than I would have ever thought possible! Achebe has masterful skill in portraying African culture to the readers. He colors Africa in a magnificent yet somewhat tragic shade.I wrote an essay in college based on the Nigerian folktales in this book and received a 100% from my professor. This book has the power to touch lives and I recommend it to absolutely everybody on the planet. I have given my copy to my brother in hopes of educating one more person in this world on African culture. If you think this book is just for African Americans you're wrong... I am caucasian and this book has become my absolute favorite ever!Please buy this book and when you've read it pass it along to someone else. This book really enlightens people and makes the world more aware of the great and slightly overlooked continent of Africa - and in particular, Nigeria. I will travel to Africa someday solely because of this book!

Potentially deadly, so be careful.

Because it's easy to read but hard to interpret, Achebe's masterwork has become a fixture thoughout secondary and higher education. Unfortunately, its current status as a "classic text" as well as a multicultural icon threatens to make it merely another institutional artifact rather than the genuinely provocative text it is capable of being. Achebe does not gloss over the apparently savage, cruel, sexist practices of the Ibo people before the arrival of the white missionaries. Yet students are quick to overlook these tensions in the narrative, preferring to go for the "platitudes" about imperialism that they know are expected of them in the classroom devoted to assuring "diversity" is in the curriculum. The other "tension" that is often overlooked is one outside the text: respecting the autonomy and identity of an African country by staying out of its affairs vs. intervening to bring an end to mass genocide (Rwanda), starvation (Ethiopia), and enslavement of children (Sudan). Why is it a "moral imperative" for the West to interfere in Kosovo but not in Rwanda? If these tensions are not confronted, the novel is a well-crafted folk tale about a tragic hero, and also another occasion for student apathy. Achebe himself has invited strong moral judgements about his text by applying the same to Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."

Things Fall Apart Mentions in Our Blog

Published by Beth Clark • August 24, 2018
The Great American Read is a PBS series that explores and celebrates the power of reading as the core of an ambitious digital, educational, and community outreach campaign designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books. One hundred books, to be exact, so here are books 81–100 on the list!
Published by Eva • September 14, 2015

Five words you never want to hear in a comparative lit class?

"Yeah, going off of that..."

Which, when translated to normal human speak, actually means "This in no way relates to the point you just made, but I really love to hear myself talk." Every English major knows the scenario: The class circles up after reading (or not reading) a beautifully crafted piece of literature, and an intellectually-indulged twenty-something decides to hijack the discussion with the deluded idea that they have the book completely figured out. But the thing about great literature is that no one has managed to totally figure it out – that's why it stands apart as a selection of work that we all keep coming back to. Plus nothing kills an engaging class discussion quite like an unchecked know-it-all. Whether you're the type of student who's read the book before it was assigned, or who only highlights quotes they find on sparknotes, these ten works of literature are worth a second (or third) read. And here's a plus; two of them are comic books.

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