Things Fall Apart, by Chinua AchebeRead about the other books on the list.
Achebe is regarded as the father (perhaps now grandfather) of modern African literature. His first novel – written as a riposte to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and what Achebe saw as its distortions – has become a classic, and is one of the most widely read African novels. It tells the tragic story of Okonkwo, a powerful and ambitious warrior among Nigeria's Igbo people. Set during the scramble for Africa by the European powers in the 1890s, it portrays the devastating impact of English Christian missionaries and colonial laws on Igbo culture.
Achebe is a sympathetic voice, but he refuses to romanticise precolonial life and pulls no punches in revealing the flaws of his characters. Okonkwo is forced into a seven-year exile for accidentally killing a member of his clan. When he returns, he finds that traditional life is being corroded by the encroaching colonisers. When he and others, unwilling to adapt, try to combat this outside influence, things fall apart.
Through the novel, for the first time, outsiders were able to see Africans as they saw themselves.
Until his death on 21 March, Achebe was a thorn in the side of Nigerian military governments – and that often meant going into exile.
Things Fall Apart is among Hallie Ephron's ten best books for a good cry, Helon Habila's three books to help understand Nigeria, and Martin Meredith's ten books to read on Africa.