Things Fall Apart

19 08 2008

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things Fall Apart ; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

—W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

“Things Fall Apart” novel is a widely acclaimed African novel in English, and often considered as a magnum opus in Chinua Achube’s literary history. Having throughly enjoyed ‘Things Fall Apart’, I could see the why. It acted as an eye opener for me, and made me discover the African cultural fabric in a much more wholesome way.

This book protagonist Okonkwo, is a self made warrior, driven by the fear of failure and the zeal to overcome weakness. In his passion to succeed against all odds, Okonkwo led his life and family with a iron hand, never giving away his affection or emotion. From rags, Okonkwo raises to fame as one of the reputed warriors in Umuofia by sheer hard work. Under the pretense of strength, he even survives the sacrifice of his adopted son’s sacrifice and endures severe hardships to earn his way as one of the most powerful men in the clan. Yet, inadvertently he commits a mistake and had to leave the clan for a period of seven years.

Here is the novel takes an interesting turn where we are introduced to the silently creeping change in the Igbo culture due to introduction of Christianity, missionaries and modern education. Rooted in the ancestral beliefs, Okonkwo finds it difficult to accept the shifting norms of the village under the colonial rule that altered many deep seated cultural customs of the village. With a dignified grace, Achebe narrates the cultural change that happened in the history to highlight how certain things would be so difficult to mend once broken. Things fall apart. Agreed and that could be a powerful perspective to explore the sweeping change in a cultural or a historical context. I loved the way Achube brought forth the complex norms of the African culture and dispelled the stereotypical imagery of the primitive Africa.

Here are some of the quotes from the book that moved me immensely.

“Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently? But although he thought for a long time he found no answer. He was merely led into greater complexities.

Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, ‘My father, they have killed me!’ as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his matchet and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.”





Never Let Me Go..

6 06 2008

What would you do if you find out that you are brought into this world for a special purpose? A purpose of brightening somebody’s life at the expense of yourself. What if you are made to live in an artificial world with sole purpose to unzip your organs when needed?What would you feel if someone walks up to you one day to announce that, “You were brought into this world for a purpose, and your futures, all of them, have been decided.”

A thought so chilling to even to think about, finds life and voice in ‘Never Let Me Go’.

This novel is set in a school by name ‘Hailsham’ where cloned children are reared in an artificial establishment to be the donors of future. A world completely devoid of moral implications and incredibly insensitive to the sensitivity of human emotions. A world of three kids: Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, filled with what seems like a benign bliss of childhood unravels into a great sham of artificiality, where simple words like ‘donations’, ‘complete’ assume grotesque ramifications.

Kathy’s observation about Madame’s revulsion: “Madame was afraid of us. But she was afraid of us in the same way someone might be afraid of spiders. We hadn’t been ready for that. It had never occurred to us to wonder how we would feel, being seen like that, being the spiders.”

Or the silent acceptance of donations reflected thus: “All the same, some of it must go in somewhere. It must go in, because by the time a moment like that comes along, there’s a part of you that’s been waiting. Maybe from as early as when you’re five or six, there’s been a whisper going at the back of your head, saying: “One day, maybe not so long from now, you’ll get to know how it feels.” So you’re waiting, even if you don’t quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realise that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don’t hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you–of how you were brought into this world and why–and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs. The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment. It’s like walking past a mirror you’ve walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange.”

Subtly dark and infinitely sad, this book casts a fatalistic note on human lives that are led in a cloak of artificiality. Probably, thats why my heart didn’t ache for the characters, though it bled for the sheer helplessness of the situation. A deep seated loathness for a place from which there is no escape, rather than to await the dead end that is reserved by the time one is born. This book sets itself not to explore the technicalities of cloning or the perils of being a clone, but rather captures the fine nuances of humanity in minute detail and makes one wonder about the core definition of it. The context of the book feels artificial, the tone has a note of fatality, yet the people feel awfully natural. Albeit, cast in a cloud of cold desolateness. This book is not for those who are on look out for heroes. For all the characters are patient victims in waiting for their end, leading a life as if its on loan, with an air of detachment around them which they flaunt mercilessly, accepting in silence the grim fatality of the life that they are leading.

How glad I was that this story is still a piece of fiction and not a disgusting manifestation of the modern day genetic experiments that intend to deliver greater good to greater lot at the cost of assured unhappiness for some.





A Handful Of Dust

27 05 2008

… I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
THE WASTELAND

‘A Handful Of Dust’ from Evelyn Waugh is one of the first and finest satirical fiction that I read since a long time. With an intriguing title lifted from ‘The Wasteland’, Waugh indeed paints a satirical stylish picture of the society through the breakup of the marriage of Brenda and Tony Last. Laced with wry wit, sarcastic humor and subtle irony, Waugh elegantly draws out the superficiality of the upper class.

The novel begins with one of the friend’s of Tony quoting, “I often think Tony Last’s one of the happiest men I know. He’s got just enough money, loves the place, one son he’s crazy about, devoted wife, not a worry in the world.”

Tony is happily married to Brenda and to his Victorian Gothic country home. In love with the happenings around London and bored by the country lifestyle, Brenda fancies herself in love with an opportunistic and worthless social climber Mr. Beaver. When Tony’s Son is killed in an accident, Brenda reveals her affair to Tony and requests for a hefty divorce settlement that forces Tony to sell his home. Betrayed by his wife, Tony embarks on a harebrained expedition to discover a lost city deep in jungles, only to find himself as a prisoner to a Mr.Todd. The novel signs itself with Tony resigning himself to read Charles Dickens’s works to Mr.Todd in jungles for eternity, and Brenda marrying one of the obliging Tony’s friends as her lover Mr. Beaver leaves her for New York, whilst the house went to Tony’s distant relatives.

The novel is filled with impersonal and often cruel satire. Sample this musing of Tony towards the end: “He had always rather enjoyed reading aloud and in the first year of marriage had shared several books in this way with Brenda, until one day, in a moment of frankness, she remarked that it was torture to her.”

The casual tone in which Brenda’s betrayal of Tony is handled and the social sanction it received makes one wonder at the moral corruption of the society. Being Amusing, melodramatic, tragic and cold, Waugh brings out the phoniness of the aristocratic society in a subtle sarcastic fashion that’s beautifully supported by a vividly descriptive style. A great example of dark humor that presents a scathing commentary on the society and the phony relationships.









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