Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book Review - Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

Title: Things Fall Apart
Author: Chinua Achebe
Publisher: Anchor Books, 1994. Original copyright: 1959.
Length: 209 pages, plus Glossary of Ibo Words and Phrases

There is a profound need for Americans to read books about non-Western cultures. This is especially true for those in political leadership positions. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, is one such book.

I learned about Things Fall Apart for the first time recently on somebody’s blog. I picked it up from the library two days ago and finished it today.

Things Fall Apart is the story of Okonkwo, a leader in the village of Umuofia in Nigeria. The story is told from the point of view that the Ibo culture of Okonkwo’s people. This culture is profoundly different from that of 21st Century America. A significant part of this book is spent establishing the culture and society for the reader.

In the first part of the book, the cultural constructs hold the society together, even though things fall apart on occasion on a personal level for Okonkwo and others in the book. But things fall apart for the culture as a whole as a result of the arrival of Christian missionaries and British colonial rulers. The story of how this happens to Okonkwo and his village is told in a simple, accessible, but gripping way.

If you read this book, do NOT use the speed reading technique of reading the end first. Just read it through, and will find that the very last paragraph provides the exclamation point that makes this book’s message so important.


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