Sunday, December 14, 2008

Aimless Reading: The A's, Part 3

Things Fall Apart
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Achebe, Chinua
Things Fall Apart

Phew - I have actually read this book, cover to cover, and recently. Achebe came to Buffalo in September for a reading and Q & A in the series I run called "Babel." We had a lot of sound problems, unfortunately, so many people couldn't hear what was actually a pretty amazing reading.

The book itself is remarkable as much for its concision and clarity of thought as it is for its historical importance as one of the first novels about Africans written by an African. It tells the story of Okonkwo, an Igbo warrior in Nigeria at the end of the 19th century. It is essentially the story of the clash of civilizations -- that of Igbo tribal culture and the white Christian missionaries. The outcome, of course, is foretold in the title. It begins:

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 a 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.

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