Saturday, February 08, 2014

Discussing Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" in Hemet

On Saturday, February 8th, 2014 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, the ongoing "Doing Literature" discussion group will meet at the Hemet Public Library at 300 East Latham Avenue to discuss Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

Join us to consider why this has remained such an enduring work of 20th century literature! The discussion is free, and while it is helpful to have read the novel, it is not necessary to participate. Also as a reminder: We have a microblog up at and on twitter @hemetliterature if you want to get additional updates and posts.

Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Igbo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

Born in 1930, Achebe aimed to depict his culture as it had existed before colonization. In its own words, on its own terms. This includes the oral traditions and customs, the sense of guardian spirits and other beliefs. When it was originally written, this was a very radical suggestion and one hailed as innovative.

Things Fall Apart was unflinching in showing the uneasy balance between things within the traditional culture that needed change even as the novel critiqued colonization. It did not romanticize either the pre-colonial or the colonial era. For writers in many cultures, this demonstrated an approach that many have since sought to emulate in whole or in part to create a vibrant body of literary work that can stand the test of time.

Throughout the remainder of his literary career, Achebe's novels would focus on various traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christianity and the West, as well as examining African values. Achebe's style draws upon the oral traditions of his people. This can be seen in the straightforward narration and incorporation of Igbo folk stories, proverbs, and oratory methods. Achebe's body of work also includes short stories, children's books, and essays. From 2009 until his death in 2013 at the age of 82, he served as a professor at Brown University in the United States.

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