BALANCE AND BELIEF IN CHINUA ACHEBE’S THINGS FALL APART
The library is one of the institutions which most people would agree, has had a positive and lasting significance for human development. It is a well documented fact that many of the most influential human minds were, and are still being nurtured in public and private libraries. It didn’t come as a surprise when, at the height of the great crises that rocked higher education in my country, Nigeria in the last two decades, an eminent scholar suggested that the academic staff union was getting too powerful and that one way to put the academics in their place was to build big and efficient libraries across the land and close the universities for at least a few years!! Although that statement posed a threat to the means of livelihood of thousands of families, including mine, it forced many to recognize the important role of the library in any modern society. On a personal note, I acknowledge that the time I spend in libraries have continued to chart the direction of my career.
That little reflection on the role of the library arises not only because we are in a library, but also because in pre-literate societies like the Igbo society portrayed by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart, where they are no libraries, the oral traditions of story telling, rituals of life and rights of passage, divination and festivals together constitute and in turn draw from the dynamic pool some of the kind of knowledge we acquire from libraries. But it is a pool severely limited by the fragile, contingent, and sometimes opportunistic nature of human memory. People with incredible memories die
with them; we tend to preserve in our memory only what we consider useful and these are most times coloured by individual circumstances and psychic needs.
In the following discussion of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, I want to temporarily move away from the understandable emphasis of readers and critics of the...