The African Trilogy is a book published in 2010 in the USA by Alfred A. Knopf and contains three books by renowned Nigerian Author, Chinua Achebe (1930-2013). Award winning Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie provides the introduction.
Book 1: Things Fall Apart
Number of pages: 146
1st Published in 1958 by William Heinemann Ltd
Personal Rating: 10/10
Things Fall Apart tells the story of Okonkwo from Umuofia in pre-colonial Nigeria, who is known as a fearless warrior and hardworking man worthy of respect in his community. However, Okonkwo is not as fearless as he presents himself to be. He is in reality a man trying to overcompensate for the fact that his father, Unoka, was known to be irresponsible and died in debt. Okonkwo hated his father for all his failings and therefore, makes it his life mission not to be likened to him. In his quest to be worthy of the respect his father barely had, Okonkwo comes across as arrogant, somewhat chauvinistic and with anger issues. He can be defiant too in some cases.
Eventually, Okonkwo, his wives and children end up in exile in his motherland of Mbanta for 7 years after the accidental killing of a boy. While in Mbanta, white missionaries begin coming to Igboland where the story is set. They bring with them Christianity which trickles down to Mbanta where Okonkwo is. Okonkwo and some of the villagers reject this new religion but a few others warm up to it and convert to Christianity. One of these new converts is Okonkwo’s eldest son, Nwoye, whom he quickly disowns. The exile years finally come to an end and Okonkwo and his family return to Umuofia. But he is stunned to discover the extent of the white man’s influence in his former village in just a period of 7 years. Already, in addition to Christianity, signs of colonialism are evident with a white judicial set up in the form of a court and a jail.
I must admit that I was very late in reading this book given just how famous it is and considered an African Classic. However, I am glad that I have finally read it. Things Fall Apart is a celebration of Igbo Culture complete with its positive aspects and not so positive aspects. The best part is that it is relatable culture and some of it was pretty familiar to me as a Kenyan. Themes of Tradition, Polygamy, Igbo Spirituality and Igbo Customs are explored at large in the surprisingly, not so big book of only 146 pages. It was particularly interesting for me to learn that in ancient Igbo, there were crops that women cultivated and crops that were a reserve for men and yam was a man’s crop. Oral Literature and Igbo sayings dominate the book and it shows that the Author was very much in touch with his culture at the time of writing.
The ending was unexpected and tragic but I look forward to reading the 2nd book in the trilogy and discovering more of Okonkwo’s lineage.
As reviewed by Lorna Likiza