A personal read of Chinua Achebe’s work

Things fall apart coverI think I must have been in college when I first read Things fall apart, by Chinua Achebe.  Certainly I didn’t read it in high school, and I am fairly sure I read it before coming to West Africa in the mid-1970s.  I can’t remember what kind of impression it made at the time, but I know that when I first came to Nigeria, I spent quite a bit of time reading African novels, which were relatively cheaply available then at the University of Ibadan bookshop.  In many ways by this time, the golden era of African literature had passed, but the Heinemann African Writers Series was still very much around, so between the UI library and the bookshop it was easy to find African, and especially Nigerian writing.

Certainly I have read at one point in my life all of Achebe’s novels:

  • Things fall apart – mentioned already, which was originally published in 1958
  • No longer at ease – 1960
  • Arrow of God – 1964; a colleague blogger, Kinnareads recommends this one especially, so I guess it is time for a re-read
  • A man of the people – 1966
  • Anthills of the savannah – 1987 [I read this in hardback, as it was nominated for one of the UK writing prizes, and British Council – when it had a library – was always careful to order prize-nominated books]

In 2009 I read Things fall apart again – this time for Accra Book Club – as an introduction to this very famous book for some members who had never read it.  And I think we will do it again.  For those who have already read it it will be a tribute to the late author; for those for whom it is totally new, I guess I hope they will find it a real eye-opener.

For me, my personal salute to Chinua Achebe, is to set a kind of mini-challenge to myself to read all of his novels again, (and There was a country coverof course since it was so long ago that I read them for the first time, I anticipate it will be a real voyage of discovery).  Plus of course I do have on my TBR shelves his account of the Biafran war, There was a country, which also beckons.

I end on a Ghanaian note

Damirifa due!  Chinua Achebe!   Damirifa due!  May you rest in peace, and your legacy will live on!


Achebe and Adichie – 50 years apart?

This month (October 2009) members of the Accra Book Club are supposed to finally discuss Chinua Achebe’s seminal work, Things fall apart, with those of us who feel adventurous reading Dambisa Moyo’s controversial assessment of aid, Dead aid.  I re-read Achebe’s book earlier this year, so I just need to quickly refresh my memory, but the Moyo book I have just started, even though I did buy it while on holiday.

Interestingly we are reading two Nigerian authors back to back – so in November 2009 we will discuss Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s collection of short stories, The thing around your neck. I am actually happy and proud to say that the bookshop where I bought it – Vidya’s –  actually had the Nigerian version, put out by Adichie’s Lagos publishers, Farafina, which I thought was doubly appropriate.  It is ironic that we often read African writers who are published in London and New York.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie latest book

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's latest book

I found her stories quite moving, some better than others – obviously, but capturing some of the range that can be termed part of the contemporary Nigerian, or dare I say, African experience, whether in Nigeria, South Africa or in the diaspora.

I also found it doubly appropriate that a colleague sent me a link to the talk which Adichie gave recently for TED.  I really enjoyed it, and passed on the link to others.   It is definitely worth listening to and watching.