Sameer Rahim in The Telegraph:
In June 1958 William Heinemann published a first novel by a Nigerian radio producer called Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart was immediately recognised for its subtle portrayal of tribal life in Igboland, the area of south-east Nigeria where Achebe was born and raised. After 52 years that book has become a classic of world literature. In an essay in Achebe’s new book, The Education of a British-Protected Child, the author reflects on the appreciative letters he has received from readers of all backgrounds. “In spite of serious cultural differences,” he writes, “it is possible for readers in the West to identify, even deeply, with characters and situations in an African novel.”
The novel’s title is taken from Yeats’s “The Second Coming”: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” At the novel’s centre is the village of Umuofia and its strongest personality, Okonkwo. We see his life destroyed by a series of calamities, the most significant of which is the British arrival in Igboland. He is impotent when his son abandons his tribal religion to attend a mission school. When it emerges that the British have brought not only a religion, but also a government and a queen, Okonkwo’s refusal to compromise leads to his tragic end.