Embarrassingly, I must confess that, until this year, I had never read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. While I never read it - especially as I was more numerate and interested in the stage as a form of expression and arts - I surprisingly did not hear much about it growing up.
Were you living under a rock?
Or, I mean, the people around you, were they in literary exile?
What could you possibly have done with your teenage years if you never received literary salvation by virtue of reading the likes of Achebe growing up?
These are questions I tend to ask myself, too; especially as I took Literature as a subject in secondary school. Perhaps my curriculum was too white? Possibly. There is a need for schools based in Nigeria - irrespective of the curriculum adopted - to incorporate Nigerian and African literature into their educational system and electives. However late to the club, I have finally picked up Things Fall Apart, and sincerely struggled with dropping it.
Without my consent, Things Fall Apart recklessly engages not just my mind, but also my body; as my right shoulder is occasionally forced to collide with the left in the form of a dance and they sway from side to side, feeling the winds that erupt from the brilliantly orchestrated plot, village scenes, stories and proverbs; and my lips sing along to the melody of Igbo expressions and language used across the book. Every page turned is an invitation to awaken my imagination, as the book transcends me to village scenes that I have, growing up, always romanticised. It skilfully draws me in as I, just as one of Okonkwo's wives, occasionally tremble at Okonkwo's fury, and find myself uttering "mmmhmn" as I nod in agreement with the character(s). Like I needed an extra reason to not want to put it down, the book gets me laughing from time to time, and also has me responding to my imaginary Igbo kinsmen saying "Eee!"
Right now, in summary, Things Fall Apart totally has my heart! Rather than asking questions as to how come I never read it, I am so glad that I am finally reading it! What makes me happier is that the timing could not have been any better, as I am able to pick up on themes - including culture, tradition, beliefs and the precolonial setting in Igboland - that I probably would not have been able to, had I read it when I was younger.
I however wonder if Non-Nigerians read Things Fall Apart and are able to connect with it the way I do. I can not help but wonder if I am getting this much life from it because I was born to and bred in Nigeria; to a mother who, through theatre, has always pinpointed the beauty in the diverse Nigerian tribes including the Igbos; or perhaps, due to the fact that I have been a visitant shareholder of Nollywood since its inception - meaning that I frequently watch Nollywood movies - and thus, been exposed to a visual representation of some scenes illustrated by Chinua Achebe. Or, is the book just so brilliant that it encapsulates every reader, regardless of background or ethnicity? I would love to know your thoughts and experiences on reading the book, if you have read it.
If, on the other hand, you are yet to read Things Fall Apart, be my literary guest, and join in on the read of the month. If you have a busy schedule which leaves you little time to be great, consider reading a chapter or two a day as you commute to work or school. This may be a more feasible way of finishing the book. If you are a newly convicted reader like myself, reading a chapter or two a day may foster a sort of suspense, and inquisitiveness, which should keep you engrossed till the end of the book. Whatever you reading pattern or pace, why not make Things Fall Apart your read for the month, and share your thoughts with The Book Banque, as you read along.
Join in on the conversation on October 2nd, as The Book Banque hosts a virtual review of Things Fall Apart via Twitter, using the hashtag #TBBNQreads.