Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (A Review)

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was my first foray into African literature, leaving aside Toni Morrison's writings on the lives of the colonized community. I picked up the book with great expectations knowing the premise of the book.

I liked the simple writing style and the setting up of the context of the precolonial Africa. The various gods and the magic make the fabric of the novel extremely strong. The setting up of the conflicts of the central character and the initial development of his character were also well handled, I thought.

But what happened after that was a sheer let down. There no real resolution of the conflict of the mad man that the protagonist becomes. It became increasingly hard for me feel for any of the characters which somehow seem deprived of flesh and blood. They are mere two dimensional, caricatured versions of what they could have become.

The nuances of the culture, which could have potentially given the novel a great character were very few and poorly thrashed out. This element alone could have taken the novel to a level where a reader could have immersed himself in new knowledge and understanding of another world.

It seemed to me that the author just mandated himself to focus on the gray of all cultures - his and the west. In search of a neutral zone, he fails to make any point. Potentially, he could have made several amazing points but again, the novel fails to deliver on any of those.

What I found commendable was the writing in English. Choosing a foreign language to bring his writings to a wider audience is something I can both relate to and appreciate.

There are bits that work really well with the off-handed approach, which I found unique. The reference to bicycle as the iron horse was endearing. But I believe the use of local language was slightly excessive, specially given that there were no supporting glossary or footnotes in the edition I picked up.

On the whole, I found it to be a slight let down with Achebe losing the grip on his characters and the plot, especially after Part 1. The plot gets muddled with seemingly unrelated plot elements that do not necessarily bring out cultural nuances or add to the overall storyline.

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1 comment:

Grey Inks said...

Thanks for the review. You should publish this review on Goodreads too!