Back in primary school, books like Chike and the River, How the Leopard Got His Claws and a few other children stories made my book collections. I read them over and over again. Thinking about it now, I understand why I enjoyed reading those books;
Chinua Achebe was a great story teller.
Google did well to celebrate one of Africa and even the world’s greatest writer, poet, essayist with its doddle. How easy it can be to forget.
Chinua Achebe was our very own novelist, poet, professor, and critic. His literary works continue to teach and inspire its readers. His literary debut, “Things Fall Apart” have found worldwide readership and has been translated into more than forty languages of the world.
Joining the world to celebrate Chinua Achebe 87th birthday today, some of Achebe books have made remarkable imprints on me. They have impacted my knowledge and shaped my perception. Some of them taught me fundamental truths about life, some taught me untold Nigeria’s history and some I have questioned its claims.
Beginning with Things Fall Apart, the first four line of the first paragraph of William Butler Yeats' Poem, “The Second Coming” sums up the subject matter of the book;
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
Things Fall Apart; Achebe’s literary debut is a captivating narrative of pre- and post-colonial life in late nineteenth century Nigeria (particularly in the South East). It has been considered to pave the way for numerous other African writers and has received global recognition.
Putting Things Fall Apart in today’s context, I ask myself candidly, did things truly fall apart?
Are we better off as a people with the coming of the whites to Africa with their religion and way of life? Looking at it critically, I believe the book was written as nostalgia of the erosion of the African values. It revealed the reaction of our fathers and forefathers to unfamiliar culture and way of life. It revealed their inner fears to accept change.
Things Fall Apart Sequels; Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease both reveals our inner struggle to accept the new. No doubt the whites brought with them some negatives but flipping the coin, I think the positives outweighs its flaws. I strongly believe we are better off as a people with Christianity, education and all the positive values they introduced to us.
Sometimes, things need to fall apart for things to fall into shape. What do you think?
The book that tops my list out of all his literary works is Chinua Achebe’s memoir, “There Was a Country”. I just wonder to myself how much of Nigeria’s history would have been lost if Achebe had not summed the courage to pen it down. Many accused him of fuelling national hostility with the book but I disagree with the claim. I consider the book the capstone of his literary works. No doubt there were personal biases and prejudices ingrained in some of the lines but it is a classical historical piece that reveals a lot of untold facts about pre, during and posts Nigerian civil war that our school curriculum has refused to teach students. I still think it is a shame that our curriculum planners have refused to include the history of Nigeria’s civil war into the school curriculum.
Shielding facts does not solve it, it only postpone it.
I am of the opinion that if the problem of the secessionist agitation of a part of Nigeria would be solved, There Was a Country would be a good reference point to guide our leaders and decision makers and it will also serve as a good pointer to agitators that there is no good in WAR.
Though gone, Chinua Achebe will continue to live on in the heart of African Literature Enthusiasts.