Chinua Achebe’s first novel Things Fall Apart (1959) ushered in a new era where African countries, which had recently achieved post-colonial independence, now achieved an independence of a different kind – the freedom of imagination and artistry, as African authors told the stories of their geography, their culture, and their experience from the point of view of Africans, and not from the point of view of those who perceived them from only from the outside. “It sparked my love affair with African literature,” Toni Morrison said. Maya Angelou said it was a book where “all readers meet theirr brothers, sisters, parents, and friends – and themselves – along Nigerian roads.” Margaret Atwood called Achebe “a magical writer…One of the greatest of the twentieth century.” And Nelson Mandela, who read Achebe’s works while in captivity, said he was a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down.”
In this episode of The History of Literature, we look at the life and legacy of Chinua Achebe, the impact of Things Fall Apart, and Achebe’s critique of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
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“Unnamed Africa Rhythm” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
Jacke and Mike discuss Joseph Conrad’s short novel Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now, and Eleanor Coppola’s documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. Then Jacke offers some thoughts on the recent events in Charlottesville, compares them with the themes in Conrad, and argues that America’s “new normal” might be best understood as an existential journey for the twenty-first century.
Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com. Support the show at patreon.com/literature.
Everyone always talks about the greatest openings in the history of literature – I’m looking at you, Call me Ishmael – but what about endings? Aren’t those just as important? What are the different ways to end short stories and novels? Which endings work well and why? In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at great literary endings, with some assistance from David Lodge, Charles Baxter, Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce, Flannery O’Connor, Samuel Beckett, Iris Murdoch, Uncle Wiggily, The Third Man, Donald Barthelme, Alice Munro, Henry James, E.B. White, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelley, David Foster Wallace, O. Henry, Ian McEwan, Thomas Mann, and Joseph Conrad.
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“Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).