I’ve finished reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. This story is fairly short, only 209 pages. A short Glossary of Ibo Words and Phrases is included at the end of the book. The paperback I read has “50th Anniversary Edition” on the cover, too. That tells me this story has been around for a long time and enjoyed/read by many people. The author has written at least 20 other works of fiction and poetry. Achebe is quite a good storyteller and appears to be quite beloved by many readers. If he’s a new author for you, you might give him a try with either this story or any of his others.
As far as Things Fall Apart goes, I found it interesting to experience the culture of the society of the story. The story seems to be about how a strong, ambitious clansman could not adapt to the societal changes wrought by newly arrived white men. Thus the title.
One thing about the story that bothers me is the essential endorsement of the brutality of the clansmen toward their dependents (women and children, in particular). The traditions included, to my 21st-century eye, appear harsh and caveman-ish. I don’t mean to be negative about the story. Moreso that I wonder what other men interpret about the culture of the story and society depicted for present-day men. What is Achebe saying with his story? What do readers glean from it?
Since the story written from a man’s perspective about a man’s experience, women and children are decoration and a backdrop for men’s needs and actions within the tale. This is not unexpected nor unwarranted by any means! I found it interesting to see the world through a man’s experiential lens. I tried to “become” the main character to some extent in order to understand his motivations and reactions to the people and events around him.
Achebe’s writing style in this story left me rather startled and confused at times as he glossed over events with a sentence or passing comment by the characters. Actions happened “off stage” of the story in places where I would have expected to be a witness to them. That’s just me, probably. Or maybe a difference in storytelling technique and expectations? Or both, of course! One of the reasons I embarked on this Historical Fiction Around the World quest is to learn about the similarities and differences in storytelling techniques used by writers from around the world.
Up next is The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho, an author from Malaysia and England.
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