“My weapon is literature.” ― Chinua Achebe
I fell into Achebe’s Things Fall Apart hard. It was a dramatic story that questioned the evangelical Christianity I had been raised around and in. It’s the colonized speaking back to the colonizer in the colonizer’s own idiom. Sure, it’s also a book about a center that doesn’t hold. We know this as soon as the excerpt from the William Butler Yeats poem The Second Coming graces the frontispiece. Yes, this is a story about degradation and dramatic shifts in circumstances.
This is its strength and where Things Fall Apart becomes a weapon. It’s able to bring the perspectives of the colonized to mind for anyone, even for me, a white, Swedish-American Minnesotan who first read the book in her early teens.
Those with power can impose beliefs. Those with little power can tell the truth in literature. Yes, we can’t impose, but we can entrance and beguile.
Photo of Chinua Achebe: By Stuart C. Shapiro, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4909138
Photo of Things Fall Apart: By Scartol – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2848416