Distinguished scholars gathered at the Library freshly to discuss the affect and meaning of among the many important books in african literature, “Things autumn Apart.”

The day-long symposium on Nov. 3 commemorated the 50th anniversary that the novel by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, i m sorry he composed in 1958 as soon as he was 28 years old. It is among the an initial African publications written in English to receive an international acclaim, and also is thought about to it is in the book that launched the contemporary canon of afri literature.

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“Things fall Apart” speak the story the Okonkwo, a leader in an Igbo village in Nigeria in the 1890s, together he faces his own personal struggles and also the affect of brothers colonialism. The publication describes the rich culture and complexities that Igbo society, articulating one insider’s feeling of the afri experience.

“’Things loss Apart’ is the best work of literature to come out of Africa,” stated Nigerian Deputy Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil, in his opening remarks in ~ the symposium. “The fact that this literary occupational remains fresh and exciting and generates attention 50 years later on is a an excellent tribute to Achebe.”

The book has sold much more than 8 million copies and also has been translated into 50 languages. It is a commonly read and also studied publication in schools roughly the world. The Library’s African and Middle Eastern division sponsored the symposium titled “Fifty years of Chinua Achebe’s commemorated Novel ‘Things fall Apart.’” The program consisted of opening remarks by numerous experts; readings native the novel through students native The school Without walls in Washington, D.C.; 2 90-minute panels; and also a keynote resolve by identified writer and academic Ali Mazrui.

The scholars disputed the book’s result on a wide range of topics, including literature, anthropology and history.

According to R. Victoria Arana, a professor that English at Howard University, “Things loss Apart” was a change novel. “It had a extensive re-ordering the the imaginative awareness for civilization in Africa,” she said. “The publication was a part of the re-storying of world who had actually been knocked silent.”


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The book’s penetrating account of defect life native the inside ignited a generation of copycat town novels, evoking traditional social values and folk wisdom. The current, third generation of african writers, however, has abandoned the rural setups for metropolitan environments. Nonetheless, the growth and popularity of the afri novel proceeds today.

Ama Ata Aidoo, a visiting professor in the African research studies Department of Brown University, defined how she had grown up studying “English literature and not literature in English,” largely Chaucer, Spencer, Shakespeare, Keats and, if lucky, T.S. Eliot and John Osborne.

“You can imagine what a revelation and inspiration “Things autumn Apart” to be for me,” claimed Aidoo. “I became conscious not just of various other literatures, yet that I, too, might write it.”

Mbye B. Cham, chairman that the room of African researches at Howard University, check Achebe’s usage of English and his connection to language. “Language in post-colonial Africa is a warm potato,” Cham said.

“Africa is one of two people cursed or blessed in languages,” claimed Cham. “There room 1,000 languages and also dialects in Africa, and also all this languages co-exist side by side. The lack of one common language is a major factor the disunity and conflict. It’s a burden that weighs down national, regional and continental integration.”

Although plenty of African writers feel the African literature should be composed in an afri language, Achebe contends otherwise. According to Cham, Achebe think English is a viable tool and writers must consider the expediency and also competence that the language. Cham quoted Achebe as when saying, “I have been offered this language the is English and also I intend to use it.”

Simon Gikandi, professor of English at Princeton University, claimed Achebe’s use of the English language in “Things fall Apart” is unique. The writer introduces words indigenous the Igbo language and uses Nigerian proverbs, metaphors and speech rhythms. “The English is vernacularized,” claimed Gikandi. “We think we room hearing him speak in Igbo.”

The novel additionally had an impact on anthropology, according to Gwendolyn Mikell, professor that anthropology and foreign service at Georgetown University. “’Things fall Apart’” is a dramatic and also startling story the Africa in crisis,” she said. The novel got anthropologists reasoning on how best to record the data that defined African societies. Interviewing techniques were added and information-gathering became an ext creative, resulting in an ext qualitative and also holistic data.

African chroniclers were influenced by the novel too. Jeanne M. Toungara, a professor of history at Howard University, explained, “In the ‘60s (after the publication came out), african scholars started to repossess and also take sovereignty over their own history.”


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From left, Library employee members eve Ferguson, Mary-Jane Deeb, Marieta Harper, Charles Stanhope, Abdulahi Ahmed and Angel Batiste (seated) join in honoring Chinua Achebe, center. - Lili Iravani

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It became apparent that europeans who had a jump on creating African background had been misinformed around African people and also cultures. “Achebe’s work-related initiated an entire generation of scholars who dealt with to know the complexities of afri societies,” Toungara said.

The novel led scholar to the procedure of “deconstructing and analyzing the dynamics of afri history.” Toungara said, “We collection out to seek trends in the past and also categorize and explain occasions in a way that make sense.”

Despite the novel’s an important acclaim and an international recognition, the publication was ignored through Random residence when it emerged a list in 1998 of “100 finest Novels.” according to Ali Mazrui, the symposium’s keynote speaker, the Random house list was far too “Anglo-Saxony.” no one African author made the list.

That prompted Mazrui to take action. That advised african publishers to develop their very own list of 100 great African books of the last 100 years. “They take it the idea seriously and also before long the whole operation was underway,” said Mazrui, who is the Albert Schweitzer Professor in Humanities and director of the academy of Global social Studies at the State university of brand-new York at Binghamton. The is additionally a professor-at-large at the university of Jos in Nigeria. “Africa’s 100 ideal Books” list was released in 2002.

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Other panelists at the symposium consisted of Philip Uko Eflong, professor of English in ~ the college of Maryland, and also Eleanor Traylor, chairman of the room of English in ~ Howard University. Moderators consisted of Renée Poussaint, a former award-winning network journalist and president the Poussaint Communications, and also LaNisa S. Kitchinier, associate director for programs at the Ralph J. Bunche international Affairs center at Howard University.

“I recognize we’ve been making extravagant claims around the book,” claimed Simon Gikandi, professor of English native Princeton. “But ‘Things fall Apart’ was an awakening. The created new parameters that thinking around African literature.”

Donna Urschel is a windy affairs specialist in the Library’s windy Affairs Office.