Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Janet Kolodner: I listened to this short novel on my way driving from Boston to DC. Oh my, how disturbing. It is the story of the life of a man, his family, and his village over the many years that white colonialists were taking over Nigeria, told by a Nigerian author. Apparently, the novel was written in 1958. We learn about Nigerian tribal life -- the myths, customs (some barbaric, some quite sweet), rites, relationships. And we learn about the ways that the colonialists, aided by missionaries, transformed that life -- the missionaries promised salvation, the colonial leaders often meant no ill but didn't understand what was going on; other colonialists and Nigerians themselves who came to have power took cruel advantage of that power; the right and left hands didn't know what the other was doing; young people and old people didn't understand what the others held dear and why; ... Interestingly, we don't know that much is being driven by colonialism until very late in the book; it took me by surprise and helped explain all kinds of things that came before. Sparely written, beautiful language. We see how a civilization can be undone, how do-gooders can unwittingly become the pawns of colonial powers, and the effects on individual, family, community, and cultural life. Very powerful.
Rating: *****

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