Never Kill a Man Who Says Nothing: Things Fall Apart and the Spoken Worlds of African Fiction

Mrinalini Chakravorty


Can the novel rendering as it does imaginative worlds in written prose ever adequately capture the expressive oral dimensions of Africa’s lived cultures?  What violence is incurred in the transcription of oral socialities into written imaginaries?  This article reads Chinua Achebe’s iconic novel Things Fall Apart to argue that the most powerful aspect of Achebe’s prose takes the form of orature that unravels ideas about a monolithic African orality opposing itself to a unitary colonial script.   Advancing a theory about orature’s exceptional framing for the African novel, the essay argues that Achebe’s prose resonates with the presence of alternative oralities, including gendered oralities, that resist appropriation by a masculinist voice for representing subaltern Africa, or by the racially inscribed imperatives of colonial literacy.


Achebe, orality, Igbo, orature, Things Fall Apart, violence, gender, postcolonial, colonial

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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