Monday, April 01, 2013

Things fall apart

Recommended by @Rajeevsrinivasa on the death of Chinua Achebe, somehow the book caught my attention and I purchased it on impulse.

The book starts off with a glimpse into African culture and explores the Ibo tradition in Nigeria and its subsequent conflict with the 'white missionaries'.

The plot of the book is a very simple one - it captures the rise and fall of its protagonist from humble origins and parallely, the rise of a foreign religion that grows its tentacles amongst themselves dividing an hitherto united culture.

I dont know how the present day structure of Nigeria is, but reading the novel brought alive, vividly, a glimpse of Nigeria of those days. What I liked about the book is its genuine voice that brings the culture of the Ibo to its pages in a matter of fact way. The village ceremonies, the rituals are described in detail almost transporting the reader to the village and making one empathise with the characters.

The second part makes for tougher reading - because it takes one through the journey of the protagonist through his eyes and the the writer does well to make the reader connect with the protagonist and his tragedy. But a very well written book that connects beautifully the reader and the subject.

It also tracks the way a foreign religion makes inroads into the native culture slowly splitting it apart - and this is something that has been highlighted in India as well many times and has led to inevitable conflict between tradition and so called modernity. The Nagas come to mind inevitably.

This has been an aspect of colonisation, I suppose, one that has never been sufficiently highlighted in most Indian literature. In the name of civilization, apart from banning certain bad practices, there was a strong tendency to impose a new religion as well. Wherever, colonization went, there went missionaries as well, in the name of civilizing the natives. That it split apart cultures and disconnected the people who lived in harmony with the earth and literally worshipped it has been ignored in most contemporary literature. This aspect comes out very clearly in this book as he exposes the conflict between traditionalism and a foreign religion on the people of his village. Of course, it is politically incorrect to say that these days...

The most recent I read something similar was in this review of Korkai by Aravindan Neelakandan at CRI.

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