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Understanding Things Fall Apart: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Kalu Ogbaa Summary
Things Fall Apart is the most widely read and influential African novel. Published in 1958, it has sold more than eight million copies and been translated into fifty languages. African culture is not familiar to most American readers however, and this casebook provides a wealth of commentary and original materials that place the novel in its historical, social, and cultural contexts. Ogbaa, an Igbo scholar, has selected a wide variety of historical and firsthand accounts of Igbo history and cultural heritage. These accounts illuminate the historical context and issues relating to the colonization of Africa by European powers, in particular Britain's colonization of Nigeria. Fascinating materials bring to light the novel's cultural context—folkways, language and narrative customs, and traditional Igbo religion. Among the documents included are a slave narrative, interviews, journal and magazine articles, and historical essays. Each chapter is followed by questions for class discussion and ideas for student paper topics. A selection of maps and photos of Igbo culture complement the text. Following a literary analysis, historical documents trace the European powers' partition of Africa and the creation and colonization of Nigeria, home of the Igbo people. Several chapters on Igbo cultural harmony feature materials that explain the Igbo view of the world of humans and the world of the spirits, Igbo language, and traditional Igbo religion and material customs. Selections on the African novelists' novel place Things Fall Apart in the context of African literature and emphasize the difference between African and Western elements of fiction. A concluding chapter examines the debate on writing African novels in ex-colonizers' languages. This casebook will greatly enhance the reader's appreciation of the novel and understanding of Igbo history, society, culture, and civilization.