Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart has been named in BBC’s 100 stories that shaped the world, making it into the top 5. BBC Culture asked writers around the globe to pick stories that have endured across generations and continents – and changed society. Other great African literary works on the list include Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, and Children of Gebelawi written by Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz.
On Steve Biko: “A young man with a sharp intellect and flair for organisation and leadership”. Photo: Bookslive
One of Africa’s literary giants Albert Chinualumogu Achebe passed away in 2013 aged 82 but his works continue to make headlines, inspiring and influencing generations. Achebe’s first novel Things Fall Apart (1958), which is widely considered his magnum opus, and is the most widely read book in modern African literature has been named in BBC’s 100 stories that shaped the world, making it into the top 5.
In April, just months after the 60th anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart, the novel was named one of 12 novels considered “the Greatest Book Ever Written” in a list which was compiled by Encyclopaedia Brittanica. In the same month, Things Fall Apart was also named in the list of 100 Books to feature in ‘The Great American Read’ TV Series. The American series “celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey)”.
Read: Things Fall Apart named one of 12 novels considered the “Greatest Book Ever Written”
Things Fall Apart is regarded as an important novel and one of the greatest classics of our time. The story chronicles the pre-colonial life in Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century. The novel interrogates the clash of cultures, traditional values and belief systems.
Other great African literary works on the BBC’s 100 list include Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, and Children of Gebelawi written by Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz. Nervous Conditions, which comes in at number 66 on the BBC list won the African category of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989 and is considered one of the 12 best African novels ever written. The novel illustrates and interrogates the dynamic themes of race, colonialism, and gender during the post-colonial conditions of present-day Zimbabwe.
Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) the first Arabic-language writer to win a Nobel Prize for literature. Photo: ANP
Children of Gebelawi written by Mahfouz is ranked 76 on the BBC list. Mahfouz won the 1988 Nobel Prize for literature for his works “rich in nuance”, which “formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind”. Mahfouz was the second African writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, after Nigerian author and poet, Wole Soyinka who received the Prize in 1986.
In April, BBC Culture says it asked writers around the globe to pick stories that have endured across generations and continents – and changed society. Experts around the world nominated up to five fictional stories they felt had shaped mindsets or influenced history. “We received answers from 108 authors, academics, journalists, critics and translators in 35 countries – their choices took in novels, poems, folk tales and dramas in 33 different languages,” BBC Culture said.
BBC Culture says the list is not definitive but its aim is “to spark a conversation about why some stories endure; how they continue to resonate centuries and millennia after they were created. And why sharing those stories is a fundamental human impulse: one that can overcome division, inspire change, and even spark revolutions”.