2004-09-06: Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart (1959)

by Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

I heard of this book on NPR some years ago (perhaps part of a campaign for the Nobel prize). The brief description stuck in my mind, and I happened to recall it when I had the library web page open, so searched for the title.

The book is written in straightforward language, about relatively mundane events (for such an exotic culture). Okonkwo is on the verge of becoming one of the great men of his clan, when white missionaries and colonial rule come to his area of what we now call Nigeria. From that point, well, the title speaks for itself.

The book ought to have had some influence on post-WWII discussion of colonial matters, though I haven’t looked into that question. In any case, it portrays the now-lost culture of a clan society, and cultures in conflict, illustrating some interesting aspects of memetics.

It is rather sad to think of what is lost when a traditional culture is overwhelmed by a foreign culture, basically to satisfy greed in a relatively small number of people.


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