There are some iconic books that should not be missed, like Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s groundbreaking debut novel Things Fall Apart, the most widely read book in modern African literature. Originally published in English in 1958, the book is available on the Seaburn Books website: www.seaburn-books.com in Greek, as Ta Pragmata Kommatiazontai, translated by Rigas Kappatos and Sam Chekwas.
Things Fall Apart depicts pre-colonial life in the southeastern part of Nigeria and the invasion by Europeans during the late 19th century. It was one of the first modern African novels in English to receive international critical acclaim. A staple in schools throughout Africa, the book is also widely read and studied in English-speaking countries throughout the world.
The title comes from a line in the poem The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats. Already translated into more than 50 languages, the book, in this Greek translation, presents the powerful work to an even wider audience.
Earlier novels about Africa were mostly written by Europeans who portrayed African characters in a stereotypical manner as the exotic other and/or as savages who needed enlightenment from the West. Achebe illuminates the African experience in his book, capturing life in a pre-colonial African village, conveying the tragedy of the loss of that world while also broadening the understanding of contemporary realities.
Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless Igbo warrior of Umuofia in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart explores one man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his Igbo traditions by British political and religious forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order. The story is a moving, tragic one and continues to resonate with readers to the present day. While we may not live in the type of community described in these pages, the themes and characters speak to us through their struggles and offer insights that are universal.
On November 5, 2019, the BBC News listed Things Fall Apart on its list of the 100 most influential novels. Achebe was hailed as the “Father of African Literature” for inspiring many of Africa’s best known modern writers and also bringing worldwide attention to the study of contemporary African literature. Nobel laureate Toni Morrison credited Achebe with inspiring her to become a writer and “sparked her love affair with African literature,” according to an August 2001 article in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.
The Greek version is easy to read and captures the spirit of the original text as good translations always do. The book includes a helpful glossary of words and phrases from the Igbo dialect as well as a brief biography of Achebe and a note from the publisher, Chekwas, who is well-known in the Greek-American community for his love of the Greek language and his independent bookstore Seaburn Books in Astoria, which unfortunately closed in its brick and mortar form in 2011. Seaburn Books continues, thankfully, online and offers a wide selection of books for all readers and interests.
Ta Pragmata Kommatiazontai, translated by Rigas Kappatos and Sam Chekwas, is available online: http://www.seaburn-books.com/.