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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart was published in 1958 and it has become a classic of world literature. It has sold over 8 million copies world wide and been translated into 45 languages. It is the story of Okonkwo, a proud Nigerian man, physically imposing and renowned for his bravery, who becomes the victim of his own hubris.

Okonkwo is determined to be different from his indolent father and sets almost impossibly high standards for himself and his family. It is this pride and rigidity that eventually lead to his downfall. At the beginning of the book he is doing very well for himself - through tireless hard work he has risen to be one of the lords of the clan and lives contentedly with his wives and children. Everything begins to fall apart when, in order not to appear weak, he becomes involved in the ritual killing of his foster son. Shortly afterwards he accidentally shoots and kills a clan member and, according to the laws of his tribe, he has to live in exile for seven years. When he returns home everything is changed.

The tale of Okonkwo mirrors the story of Nigerian society in the twentieth century - how the traditional way of life disintegrated with the arrival of white men and the imposition of their religion and culture. Achebe has written a great novel in a language that is vibrant with the metaphors of Africa.

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