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The African Trilogy: Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and Arrow of God Hardcover – Jan 5 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 536 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library (Jan. 5 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307592707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307592705
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 3 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 599 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #30,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria in 1930. His first novel, Things Falls Apart, became a classic of international literature and required reading for students worldwide. He also authored four subsequent novels, two short-story collections, and numerous other books. He was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and, for over 15 years, was the Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. In 2007, Achebe was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement. He died in 2013.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. A 2003 O. Henry Prize winner, Adichie now divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



When, in 1958, the London publishers William Heinemann received a manuscript of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, they were unsure whether to publish it. The central question, according to editor Alan Hill, was this: ‘Would anyone possibly buy a novel by an African?’ Not only were there a mere handful of examples of African writing in English at the time – such as Amos Tutuola’s surreal The Palm-Wine Drinkard and Cyprian Ekwensi’s novel of contemporary Lagos, People of the City – but none of them had the ambition, the subtlety, or the confidence of Things Fall Apart.

Chinua Achebe had initially conceived it as a story of three generations: a man in pre-colonial Igboland who struggles against the changes brought by the first European missionaries and administrators; his son who converts to Christianity and receives some Western education; and his grandson who is educated in England and is living the life of the new elite on the cusp of independence. Achebe later scaled down the novel, focusing only on the first generation, to produce a carefully observed story of the African European colonial encounter set among the Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria in the 1890s, with the tragic hero Okonkwo at its center. Achebe’s second novel, No Longer at Ease, would skip a generation and tell the story of Okonkwo’s grandson, Obi, a civil servant in 1950s Lagos. His third novel, Arrow of God, about an Igbo priest and a British district officer in 1920s Igboland, can be read as representative of the times of Okonkwo’s son. All three novels, taken together as Achebe’s ‘African Trilogy’, create a full and beautifully nuanced arc, a human chronicle of the cultural and political changes that brought about what is now seen as the modern African state.

After William Heinemann overcame their reservations and published Things Fall Apart in June 1958, it became a critical success. Achebe, the Times Literary Supplement wrote, had ‘genuinely succeeded in presenting tribal life from the inside.’ A novelty indeed. Things Fall Apart was pioneering not in its subject but in its African point of view, as there were already many well-regarded books about Africans written by non-Africans; tribal life had already been endlessly portrayed from the outside. Achebe himself first read some of the better-known examples of these ‘colonialism classics’ as a secondary-school student in the 1940s. ‘I did not see myself as an African to begin with,’ he has written about his response to the African characters. ‘I took sides with the white men against the savages. The white man was good and reasonable and intelligent and courageous. The savages arrayed against him were sinister and stupid or, at the most, cunning. I hated their guts.’ As Achebe matured and became more critical in his reading, he began to understand the enormous power that stories had, and how much this power was shaped by who told the stories and by how they were told. As a university student in the 1950s, in addition to reading Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Coleridge, Achebe also read Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson, a novel set in Nigeria, which Time magazine had named the ‘best book ever written about Africa.’ Achebe disagreed. Not only was the Nigerian character in the novel unrecognizable to him and his classmates but he also detected, in the description of Nigerians, ‘an undertow of uncharitableness . . . a contagion of distaste, hatred and mockery.’

There has been much written about Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as a response to Mister Johnson, and one likes to think that Achebe would have written his novel even if he had not read Cary’s. Still, the prejudiced representation of African characters in literature could not but have had an influence on Achebe’s development as a writer. He would, years later, write a famous essay about the portrayal of Africans in Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness, arguing that while Conrad had written honestly about the racism of the time, he had failed to hold an authorial rejection of that world-view. The strangeness of seeing oneself distorted in literature – and indeed of not seeing oneself at all – was part of my own childhood. I grew up in the Nigerian university town of Nsukka in the 1980s, reading a lot of British children’s books. My early writing mimicked the books I was reading: all my characters were white and all my stories were set in England. Then I read Things Fall Apart. It was a glorious shock of discovery, as was Arrow of God, which I read shortly afterwards; I did not know in a concrete way until then that people like me could exist in literature. Here was a book that was unapologetically African, that was achingly familiar, but that was, also, exotic because it detailed the life of my people a hundred years before. Because I was educated in a Nigerian system that taught me little of my pre-colonial past, because I could not, for example, imagine with any accuracy how life had been organized in my part of the world in 1890, Achebe’s novels became strangely personal. Things Fall Apart was no longer a novel about a man whose exaggerated masculinity and encompassing fear of weakness make it impossible for him to adapt to the changes in his society, it became the life my great-grandfather might have lived. Arrow of God was no longer just about the British administration’s creation of warrant chiefs, and the linked destinies of two men – one an Igbo priest, the other a British administrator; it became the story of my ancestral hometown during my grandfather’s time. And No Longer at Ease transcended the story of an educated young Nigerian struggling with the pressure of new urban expectations in Lagos, and became the story of my father’s generation.

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By Chantie on April 23 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fabulous read (Well, "Reads")! 3 of Achebe's greatest works with one spine? What's not to love?! Recommended to all!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Book! Jan. 18 2011
By Vicky in Nebraska - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For someone who TRULY wishes to understand the impact that European colonization had on African Traditional Cultures, this book is MUST. I first read "Things Fall Apart" about 20 years ago, and I must admit, even though I was raised in Africa, I NEVER truly understood or appreciated how DRASTIC & TRAUMATIC & DETRIMENTAL European colonization was on the continent. That was the ONE book that opened my eyes to that sad history FOR THE FIRST TIME. I am a Teacher, so I appreciate having a thorough knowledge of past events. Being knowledgeable about Africa helps me understand and empathize with the current plight of Native Americans.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Collectors Item. Dec 17 2012
By Carlos - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read Things Fall Apart several times. I am of Igbo decent, but unfortunately don't speak the language and I love the idea of having a piece of Historic Literature for my daughters to enjoy.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Superior prose Dec 18 2013
By E.J. Kaye - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To read Achebe's work is to be given a look at an Africa apart from a western media/historical viewpoint. Things Fall Apart explains tribal Africa in a meaningful way, showing more than just the impact of the West on Africa but also the beauty and ugliness inherent in the culture. In a sense, it is more about all people than just Africans -- the names and customs change, but the feelings and ideas are universal. No Longer At Ease was, if anything, even better as it describes cultural transition and the introduction of the corruption still endemic to many African republics.

The prose is accessible and the concepts not overdone -- this is great storytelling by a master.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
review Nov. 28 2012
By chiemeka ugochukwu - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Outstanding! Makes for a compelling read. Three of Chinua Achebe's best works. African literature at its finest. I suggest it to anyone interested in Africa literature or just want to read a thought provoking novel.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Chinua Achebe - The best yet from Africa. March 1 2013
By Chuks Okereke - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a thriller! Chinua Achebe has a ruthless way of dealing with his main characters. Loved this collection when I first read them years back - still loving them now. This is definitely a 'most have'.