Now Reading is back! It’s been a while since I did my last book review, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. I’m finishing up Things Fall Apart now. As you may now, since it was first published in 1958, the novel has been translated into 45 languages, if not more, and taught in classrooms around the globe. I decided to read it again because the first time I read it was for an African literature class at Howard. I wanted to get a fresh look and pick up on themes and lessons I might have missed the first time around. I don’t want to do a review per se because there are plenty of those on this world celebrated novel. Instead, I want to highlight interesting traditional anecdotes, proverbs (!), and sayings that Chinua Achebe inserted throughout the novel. These short stories infuse color and understanding to the novel.
Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.
As our people say, ‘When mother-cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth.’
When the moon rose late in the night, people said it was refusing food, as a sullen husband refuses his wife’s food when they have quarreled.
There is no story that is not true.
Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.
An animal rubs its itching flank against a tree, a man asks his kinsman to scratch him.
The clan was like a lizard; if it lost its tail it soon grew another.
My father used to say to me: ‘Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life.
When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for a walk.
As our people say, a man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness.
There must be a reason for it. A toad does not run in the daytime for nothing.
Everybody laughed heartily except Okonkwo, who laughed uneasily because, as the saying goes, an old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.
As our fathers said, you can tell a ripe corn by its look.
A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm.
A baby on its mother’s back does not know that the way is long.
There was a saying in Umuofia that as a man danced so the drums were beaten for him.
*Our elders say that the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.
A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches. I have done my best to make Nwoye grow into a man, but there’s too much of his mother in him.
And so he was always happy when he heard him grumbling about women. That showed that in time he would be able to control his women-folk.
“When did you become a shivering old woman,” Okonkwo asked himself, “you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed.”
A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland.
**”Go to your in-laws with a pot of wine and beg your wife to return to you. It is not bravery when a man fights with a woman.”
The elders consulted their Oracle and it told them that the strange man would break their clan and spread destruction among them.
“We have been sent by this great God to ask you to leave your wicked ways and false gods and turn to Him so that you may be saved when you die.”
“Your gods are not alive and cannot do you any harm,” replied the white man. “They are pieces of wood and stone.”
And then it became known that the white man’s fetish had unbelievable power. It was said that he wore glasses on his eyes so that he could see and talk to evil spirits.
“But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice. And what is the result? An abominable religion has settled among you. A man can now leave his father and his brothers. He can curse the gods of his fathers and his ancestors, like a hunter’s dog that suddenly goes mad and turns of his master. I fear for you; I fear for the clan.”
Nneka = Mother is Supreme
Chukwu = God
Mosquito, she had said, had asked Ear to marry him, whereupon Ear fell on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. “How much longer do you think you will live?” she asked. “You are already a skeleton.” Mosquito went away humiliated, and any time he passed her way he told Ear that he was still alive.
* This is kind of confusing to me, I kind of get it but I could be wrong. Please explain if you have a clearer idea.
**I took this to mean two different things: 1. A man cannot consider himself tough and victorious because fighting a woman is an easy task. 2. A man who fights a woman cannot consider himself to be brave and righteous because that is a low for that man as women should be respected. What do you think? How do you take it to mean?
As soon as I finish the last 27 pages of Things Fall Apart, I’m moving on to Secrets (1998) by Nuruddin Farah. I read Maps, the 1st installment in Farah’s Blood in the Sun trilogy, back in September. Now I look forward to more of Farah’s enticing stories from Somalia. I’ll let you know my thoughts.