In memory of Chinau Achebe “Things Fall apart”

by Tesfai Yitbarek   25/3/2013 Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart” is a milestone of African literature: Starting in the 1950s, Achebe was central to a new Nigerian literary movement that drew on the oral traditions of Nigeria's

by Tesfai Yitbarek   25/3/2013

Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart” is a milestone of African literature:

Starting in the 1950s, Achebe was central to a new Nigerian literary movement that drew on the oral traditions of Nigeria’s indigenous tribes. Although Achebe writes in English, he attempts to incorporate Igbo vocabulary and narratives. Other novels include: No Longer At Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), and A Man of the People (1966).

                        Chinua Achebe, author of “Things Fall Apart”

It’s almost impossible to overstate the effect of the book, which as become, in the more than 50 years since publication, the archetype for African fiction and a fountainhead for postcolonial literature. African scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah has said, “It would be impossible to say how Things Fall Apart influenced African writing. It would be like asking how Shakespeare influenced English writers or Pushkin influenced Russians.”

From the outside the Nigerian State and republic doesn’t shine like the young Achebe in the picture, but the black tar of Oil in the rivers and Niger Delta,  South west of Nigeria give you another impression. The Shell Oil Dutch Company is struggling to pay the damage of the Niger Delta.

I had the luxury to sail to the Southern Ports of Nigeria carrying tons of Frozen Fish. The irony that I have been confronted with during those 3 years of work in the Delta area was to see Frozen fish of Mackerel and Spanish Mackerels been imported to feed the already 80 million mouths of Nigerians from foreign trawlers in front of their territorial waters, in the Gulf of Guinea, just a couple of miles from the area I mentioned  above.

Nigerians are very emotional people but due to their diversity you always notice differences in their mind setup. Some are proud of their nation but some do have resentment against the government of the day. For example if you travel from Lagos eastwards to Port Harcourt,  you observe a tremendous differences between the people of the two great  ports in west Africa. Workers in port Harcourt are very efficient and while in Lagos tend to be not caring less.

Port of Warri is another example of a character.It is at the inland part of the River Sappele, where your sailing starts from near the offshore oil Platforms northwards and pass the villages of Sappele and other villages and take a stop or two to be greeted by the River Pilots (Locals who know the river beds as though they live on them) who take ships of small size through the meanders of the river, sometimes against the ebb and other time low tide up river, while they chew their tobaccos or at times their good staff (hash) as they call it.

Port of Warri- Port of call

Back to the Laureate and the best known African writer. His books were widely read and some of them as listed below are really interesting: Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe redefined the way readers understood Africa in his first novel, Things Fall Apart. Published in 1958, that book “The white man is very clever…He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a prime example of African literature that demonstrates the clash between cultures and peoples that occurred across the African continent as a consequence of European colonialism

Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness'” 

The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there — there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly and the men were …. No they were not inhuman. Well, you know that was the worst of it — this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped and spun and made horrid faces, but what thrilled you, was just the thought of their humanity — like yours — the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough, but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you — you so remote from the night of first ages — could comprehend.

Herein lies the meaning of Heart of Darkness and the fascination it holds over the Western mind: “What thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity — like yours …. Ugly.” Having shown us Africa in the mass, Conrad then zeros in, half a page later, on a specific example, giving us one of his rare descriptions of an African who is not just limbs or rolling eyes:

What is the implication or what is the experience of Mr. Achebe gives to the Contemporary African student of literature?

  • Chinua Achebe’s Portrayal of Pre-Colonial Africa: During a religious gathering, a convert unmasks one of the clan spirits. The offense is grave, and in response the clan decides that the church will no longer be allowed in Umuofia. They tear the building down. Soon afterward, the District Commissioner asks the leaders of the clan, Okonkwo among them, to come see him for a peaceful meeting. The leaders arrive, and are quickly seized. In prison, they are humiliated and beaten, and they are held until the clan pays a heavy fine.
  • The Destructive Clash of Cultures : In their respective works Things Fall Apart and The Joys of Motherhood, both Chinua Achebe and Buchi Emecheta depict the effects of colonialism on Igbo society. While Achebe demonstrates the gradual process of colonial imposition, Buchi Emecheta examines its aftermath. Nonetheless, Nnu Ego and Okonkwo endure a parallel struggle with the conflicting…
  • The Comparison of One Hundred Years of Solitude with Things Fall Apart: The Comparison of One Hundred Years of Solitude with Things Fall Apart Things – and societies – fall apart. Societies are born; they grow, thrive, decline, and finally perish. Their procession through these phases, though, can be very different. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel…
  • The Role of Women : Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart explores the struggle between old traditions within the Igbo community as well as Christianity and “the second coming” it brings forth. While on the surface, it appears the novel narrows its focus to a single character, Okonkwo and his inner battles, one can read deeper into the text and find an array of assorted…
  • The Release of African Culture on the World : In the novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe uses Okonkwo’s story to elaborate a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the cultural values of African tribes. Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart as a rebuttal to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Thus, Achebe uses the book to contrast European perception of African culture with reality. The novel…

My experience of travel and work in Nigerian ports have done an impact on love to West Africa not for its climate and natural resources in the economic term but it diversity of ethnic and tribal societies. It doesn’t mean though there is always symbiotic co-existence but on the contrary a lot of racial tensions and even wars between the tribes. The contradictions at times gets irreconcilable to the extent of social upheaval and blood shed.

We all remember the Biafra secessionist war in the 60ties. The Nigerian-Biafran War began on 6 July 1967 and lasted until 15 January 1970. The Igbo tried to breakaway from Nigeria to become the Republic of Biafra,

In novel called Half of a yellow Sun: The novel takes place in Nigeria during the Nigerian-Biafran War in 1967-1970. The effect of the war is shown through the dynamic relationships of four people’s lives ranging from high-ranking political figures, a professor, a British citizen, and a houseboy. After the British left Nigeria, the lives of the main characters drastically changed and were torn apart by the ensuing civil war and decisions in their personal life.

Jumping four years ahead, trouble is brewing between the Hausa and the Igbo people and hundreds of people die in the massacres, including Olanna’s beloved auntie and uncle. A new republic, called Biafra, is created by the Igbo. As a result of the conflict, Olanna, Odenigbo, their daughter Baby and Ugwu are forced to flee Nsukka, which is the university town and the major intellectual hub of the new nation. They finally end up in the refugee town of Umuahia, where they suffer as a result of food shortages and the constant air raids and paranoid atmosphere. There are also allusions to a conflict between Olanna and Kainene, Richard and Kainene and Olanna and Odenigbo.

             Chinua Achebe, author of ‘Things Fall Apart,’ dies at age 82

God save his Soul,  the Great African son




1..Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness'” Massachusetts Review. 18. 1977. Rpt. in Heart of Darkness, An Authoritative Text, background and Sources Criticism. 1961. 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough, London: W. W Norton and Co., 1988, pp.251-261


2..Other novels include: No Longer At Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), and A Man of the People (1966).

Review overview
  • Paradiso March 26, 2013

    Thank you for posting this article to remember a very towering African original thinker and visionary man of letters. Achebe was a very proud African who valued his peoples traditions, values, history and languages.
    Like many people, I have always wondered, why was Achebe passed for the highest award for literature, although he won many, such as the Booker Man prize.
    Achebe will live for many years through his great literary works.

  • Akalom March 27, 2013

    Thank you Tesfay Yitbarek for introducing us this great writer, son of African state of Nigeria. I am sure each of us will be interested in reading his great books and learn some humanity from the. Nigeria, though a corrupt state, is endowed with a lot of writers of which one was, Wole Soyinka a noble prize winner and author of many books among which is one book by the name, “The Man Died”. Soyinka is known for strongly criticizing Nigerian military dictators, especially late General Sanni Abacha and other political tyrannies else where. The theme of his novels deal with “the oppressive boot regardless who wears them, be it black or white. One of his impressive quotes include, ““The man dies in him who keeps quiet in the face of injustice.” This book is about his prison experiences; reading this book might help those in diaspora understand about our brothers and sisters in prison as political prisoners about what they go through, both psychologically and physically.
    I wish those able writers introduce us to other real African writers who write about the suffering of their people so that we all can learn.

  • ሰላምይንገስ (ወዲ ደባስ) March 29, 2013

    ናይ መጀመርያ መጽሓፍ ልብወለድ ብቋንቋ እንግሊዝ በዛ ነገራት ወዲቆም ይበታተኑ ትብል መጽሓፍ እየ ምንባብ ጀሚረ። እታ ቀዳመይቲ ሓበን ኣፍሪቃዊ ስነጽሑፍ ዝኾነት መጽሓፍ ምበልኩዋ ። ኣነ ኣቸበ ሞይቱ ምስ ሰማዕኩ ሓዚነ። በታ መዘና ኣልቦ ዝኾነት መጽሓፉ ግን ወትሩ ህያው ኮይኑ ኣብ ልቢ ነፍሲ ወከፍ ኣፍሪቃዊ ክነብር ኢዩ።