African literature

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Prior to the appearance of Things Fall Apart (1959), there were virtually no novels of literary significance published in the English language by African writers. Of course, that is not to say that Africans were not producing narratives or art.  A major problem for English-speaking readers interested in African literature is that many cultures in Africa have relied on an oral tradition of story-telling.  Consequently, Achebe‘s novel made literary history based not only on the quality of the story-telling, but also on the fact that it was written in English.  As to whether it belongs within the “Western canon” (described more fully by this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_canon), I am not going to immerse myself in that debate.  Our group focuses on quality literature, regardless of its origin.Achebe was born in Nigeria, and was educated in schools within Nigeria created as a result of colonization.  Speaking English was required.  Like many writers, Achebe mines his life experiences – and those of others – for material in creating a story that is, in a number of ways, “English” literature.  Things Fall Apart can be viewed as a summation of African village experience in two parts:  pre and post-colonization.  His main character, Okonkwo, is modeled on the traditional (Western or Greek) model of the tragic hero.  The plot includes oracles, religious figures, omens, folk tales, violence, irony, and conflict with outsiders.  And along with tragedy, there is some humor.  (more…)
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