Expect the unexpected with Chinua Achebe

I have never been a big fan of surprises. However, some of the best surprises come from the least expected places. As a college student, I was assigned to read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe in my Africa studies class. As I looked at the small novel sitting in my hands I expected to read a dry story about pre-colonial Africa, because, after all, it was assigned reading for a history class. Never would I have expected the journey this book took me on. I couldn’t believe the last page was the end –I thought my book had to be missing pages. I wanted more and couldn’t stop talking about it to everyone I knew. So it was little surprise to my family and friends that I couldn’t wait to pick up another Achebe book. The next title I read was A Man of the People, and it left me with the same unexpected frustration and delight that I felt for days to come.

Achebe is known as the patriarch of the African novel. He brings a perspective to the history and culture of Africa like few others can. His wit and humor is unparallelled. However, he never sacrifices content for the sake of humor. Achebe is one of the few authors I have read that keeps me captivated by realistic, raw emotion and humor, while still leaving me feeling as though I learned more from a 224 page novel than an entire textbook on African history.

If you love satire, a little bit of irony, and a whole bunch of dry laughs, Achebe’s works may be worth the read. Achebe explores African history through a genuine African lense. He gives you the real sense of what life was like in Africa anywhere from pre-colonial Africa to modern day. While his humor may be a bit dry and even a little sarcasitic, it is these characteristics that leave you attached to the characters of the stories in a much deeper way. Even if you hate surprises, these may be the kind you look on with fondness for years to come.


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