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How Things Fell Apart

An excerpt from Chinua Achebe's memoir, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra, about growing up in Nigeria during a time when his country was breaking free from British colonialism, and writing Things Fall Apart:

"When I wrote Things Fall Apart I began to understand and value my traditional Igbo history even more. I am not suggesting that I was an expert in the history of the world. I was a very young man. I knew I had a story, but how it fit into the story of the world—I really had no sense of that.

"After a while I began to understand why the book had resonance. Its meaning for my Igbo people was clear to me, but I didn’t know how other people elsewhere would respond to it. Did it have any meaning or relevance for them? I realized that it did when, to give just one example, the whole class of a girls’ college in South Korea wrote to me, and each one expressed an opinion about the book. And then I learned something: They had a history that was similar to the story of Things Fall Apart—the history of colonization. This I didn’t know before. Their colonizer was Japan. So these people across the waters were able to relate to the story of dispossession in Africa. People from different parts of the world can respond to the same story if it says something to them about their own history and their own experience."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 15, 2012
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8905 words)