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Things Fall Apart: Chinua Achebe and the languages of African literature

At the BookShelf

File 20181128 32185 4x4d69.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Christian missionaries in Congo in 1911. From the biography of Gwen Elen Lewis.
Princeton Theological Seminary

Sarah Jilani, University of Cambridge

“One of the most infuriating habits of these people was their love of superfluous words,” thinks the colonial district commissioner to himself in the final chapter of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It is from the only section of this groundbreaking novel that is not written from the perspective of Africans. Telling of the colonisation of the Igbo from their point of view, the line foreshadows much: how colonisation will attempt to write African perspectives, deemed “superfluous”, out of their own histories, but also that, “infuriatingly” enough for an oppressor, the colonised Africans wield words of their own.

The great African novel?
Paull Young via Flickr, CC BY-SA

Published 60 years ago this year by Heinemann in London, Things Fall Apart has sold more than 10m…

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Development and policy analyst with a strong interest in the arts and inclusive social change. Dabbles occasionally into poetry and literary criticism!

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