Fall Apart: Achebe Dies at 82

If I had to name a list of books by African authors that I’ve read, I probably wouldn’t make it beyond one hand. This statement alone might make it obvious that I haven’t read anything by Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe. Upon his recent passing, The Guardian had this to say:

Chinua Achebe 1960

Chinua Achebe, who has died aged 82, was Africa’s best-known novelist and the founding father of African fiction. The publication of his first novel, Things Fall Apart, in 1958 not only contested European narratives about Africans but also challenged traditional assumptions about the form and function of the novel. His creation of a hybrid that combined oral and literary modes, and his refashioning of the English language to convey Igbo voices and concepts, established a model and an inspiration for other novelists throughout the African continent.

The five novels and the short stories he published between 1958 and 1987 provide a chronicle of Nigeria’s troubled history since the beginning of British colonial rule. They also create a host of vivid characters who seek in varying ways to take control of their history. As founding editor of the influential Heinemann African writers series, he oversaw the publication of more than 100 texts that made good writing by Africans available worldwide in affordable editions. (Read more . . .)

I can recall visiting my mother for the holidays sometime ago, and she happened to have the audiobook for Things Fall Apart going in her car. She shared a few interesting details about the book and more recently another friend mentioned that it was one of her favorites. Here’s a quick excerpt from the opening chapter–I’m sure most of my readers have already read it (I’m the late one):

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.The drums beat and the flutes sang and the spectators held their breath. Amalinze was a wily craftsman, but Okonkwo was as slippery as a fish in water. Every nerve and every muscle stood out on their arms, on their backs and their thighs, and one almost heard them stretching to breaking point. In the end, Okonkwo threw the Cat. (Read more . . .)

Achebe, born November 16, 1930, died March 21, 2013. He held numerous honorary doctorates and awards. His legacy cannot be captured in a couple of quick blurbs. Maybe it’s time that I move this author a little higher up on my list.

Happy reading, y’all!

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