Six decades after its publication, Things Fall Apart remains the novel to beat. This is not just in Africa where it towers ahead of many others, but also all over the world where its influence continues to grow. It is thus not surprising that different continents are gearing up for the Diamond celebration of the first novel of the legendary writer, Chinua Achebe.
At the head of the celebration is the Christy and Chinua Achebe Foundation, working with various institutions. According to a former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Dr. Wale Okediran, the project will hold between February and December.
He noted that the foundation was working with ANA, with activities scheduled to hold in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Sokoto and the grand finale at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
A five-man Africa Organising Committee, headed by Okediran, will oversee the organisation of the event in Nigeria and other African countries. Okediran feels elated that fellows of the Ebedi Residency Programme, which he founded about a decade ago, are in different African countries and are ready to be part of the organisation in their respective domains.
At a briefing on the programme, Okediran said, “Reactions from the African countries have been very encouraging. They even want to outdo one another. It is the first time we are taking the celebration out of Nigeria. Some people have asked, ‘Why are we still doing this?’ The fact is that we want to keep the literary flame aglow. We want to show that literature equally matters. Life is not just about politics. It is as important as the economy or cattle colony. We don’t want them to submerge us.
“So, in the Achebe celebration, literature is the focus. We are celebrating Achebe because of the impact he made on the development of African literature and beyond. We want to show others that if you do your work well as a writer, literature will outlive you. Of course, there is also the need to make the point that even if politics and religion are dividing us, literature is uniting us.”
Among other programmes, there will be a literary competition among secondary school pupils. It involves giving copies of Things Fall Apart to the pupils to read for one month before the day of the contest coming in the form of a quiz, comprehension and one-act dramatic enactment of any part of the book by participating schools.
Also, a colloquium will hold in Nigeria from February to August 2018 while other African countries will fix their own celebration.
According to a description projected by the organisers, the story of Things Fall Apart points to the theme of pre- and post-colonial life in late 19th century Nigeria.
“It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, one of the first to receive global critical acclaim. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and is widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. It was first published in 1958 by William Heinemann Ltd in the UK; in 1962, it was also the first work published in Heinemann’s African Writers Series. The title of the novel comes from a line in W. B. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming.
Other books by Achebe include No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People and Anthill of the Savannah.
Credit: The Punch