I have been meaning to write this post since last week, but a busy travel schedule has kept me from it. Last wednesday, Chinua Achebe, the author of one of my beloved books, Things Fall Apart, was named for the 2nd Man Booker International award. Though I have read only one book from this author, this news delighted me immensely, for the honor is as much for the book as for the author. It is the most celebrated and widely acclaimed book from Mr. Achebe and has helped generate a lot of interest in African writing worldwide.
Things fall apart is a story of an African community (Igbo). Narrated from the tribal perspective, the book seams wonderfully the superstitions of the people and their unflinching faith in supernatural. To an outsider, the thought process seems illogical, almost fantastic at points, but for a native it is life as usual. The usual rituals, the usual sacrifices, the usual faith – to them their Gods are much more real than to most of the world that we read about. The turning point in the story is the advent of colonialization, arrival of Christanity and rapid conversion of the community, which leaves its identity shattered and broken.
The narration of the book is avant grade and the flow is arresting. The darkness of the book touches you at times, but then the author steers it away from depression skillfully. Towards the end, one cannot help feeling the deprivation of ‘unification’ and ‘civilization’, for it leads to the loss of essence and identity of a culture. Though written from an African perspective, it is truly a colonialization story, a narrative of a pain felt by each culture brought under foreign subjugation.
Mr. Achebe is a Nigerian author, and feels strongly about the marginalization of African values by Europeans, which is a theme which underruns many of his works. He has been awarded many honors, though passed over for the Nobel, which many of his fans feel to be an injustice. The Man Booker International award will certainly please most of the fans, as this award is intended to be a lifetime achievement award. The award itself has been freshly commissioned in 2005 and is give every two years. Mr. Achebe is the second person to get this award after Ismail Kadare in 2005.
Congratulations Mr. Achebe for the award. And congratulations to the Booker community for making such a fitting choice.