Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Title: Things Fall Apart
Author: Chinua Achebe
Genre: African Literature
Release Date: September 1, 1994
Publisher: Anchor Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 209
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from October 8 to 10, 2011
My rating: 3 stars: I like it
Summary: Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

I can't believe these 209 pages took me about 3 days to finish. It was because, honestly, it was boring most of the time. But it's got some fair share of interesting cultural things, too. I don't really feel particularly good about this book, so my rating is somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. The book is okay, and I enjoyed it from time to time.

The story revolves around the rise and fall of this man, Okonkwo. He's a brave man, driven to be great by the abhorrence of his father's qualities: laziness and "incapability of thinking about tomorrow". He loathes his father for being a failure, so he pushes himself to be everything his father isn't. He fends for himself at a young age and becomes one of the brave warriors and gains respect from all the nine villages.

There are however drawbacks. He's extremely hotheaded and trust me, you don't want to be around him when he loses his temper. He's bothered by sights of weakness. He beats his son when he sees him cry, insulting him as a 'woman'. And there's one time when he shoots his second wife (he has three), but luckily for her, she manages to save her life. He loses his temper easily a lot of times in this book. It's these times and I find quite exciting to read. I get to know the thoughts that are going on in his mind and sometimes his anger becomes my anger, too. You can't really decide if you like him or not. I sometimes get upset that he's so senselessly violent, but sometimes I find it justified. Things become more interesting for me when the missionaries come. I can almost sense the hatred Okonkwo feels. The story runs in a way that it makes you feel like the white men shouldn't be here. Their arrival messes up the communities and the people. This is the point where I most strongly felt something while reading this book. ("Die! Die! Die! Assholes!") And I think this conflict is what the title "Things Fall Apart" refers to -- African society falls apart as old culture gives way to the new. The community struggles to hold on to its tradition when colonization and modernism come crashing in.

This book is quite an easy read, if you ask me. I've been slacking the first two days and barely read any pages, but on the third day, I was determined to finish it, and I finished what seemed like half of the book in less than two hours (I'm a very slow reader). So I guess if you really concentrate without getting easily distracted like me, you'll probably finish it in, say, 2 or 3 hours. There are some things that bugged me, though. Local Nigerian words are used quite often here in the books, and I became annoyed when I had to flip back to the glossary page just to figure out what they are. And what bugs me the most is that I probably have to know those words by heart for the test on this book too, as it's an assigned reading for English class. And also these Nigerian names. I lost track of who is who most of the time and had to flip to earlier pages to find out who this is and of what importance. However, I understand that using Nigerian words in this novel means that they are better explained that way, because things can get easily lost in translation. And it just goes to show that Nigerian culture is so much more complicated than we think that translation would have failed the true meanings of the original context.

In general, I think this book is fine literature. I think it's boring for me most of the time because it isn't what I like to read. But it depicts really well the way of life and the society in that time. I'll probably like it either more or less when I read it again, which I will have to soon enough, for the test.


This review is also posted on Goodreads.

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