Saturday, June 21, 2008

Questions on Artistic Responsibility – Chimamanda Adichie’s Imperfect Sun

The emails below recently caused furore in the academic and intellectual circles of Nigeria and I have posted them below in a bid to sample even more opinions on artistic freedom and the responsibility for its use. The context is, of course, primarily Nigerian. But I hope the questions raised are not merely the preoccupations of a Nigerian writer.

On Miss Adichie’s Sensibility

I am currently reading Miss Chimamanda Adichie's second book, "Half
of a Yellow Sun" and I am now just at page 170. In the last fifty
pages I have read her description of the death of Sardauna Bello in
1966 and my principal reaction, after disgust {at her ends] and
distaste {for her bad taste}, is anger. The sort of anger that a few
years ago would have set me off on a 5000-word criticism – yet, such
hagiography is hardly the worthy work of a critic or a critical
reader. That is what anger does. It makes us do unworthy things. But
now I am calm and not angry as I type out this email. In this calm, I
type as I think. Why is it that Miss Adichie finds it in her to
describe – mind you, not the death of Sardauna Bello, but that he
died bleating like a goat in a Rex Lawson song? Why? She repeats it
ad nauseum on page 130 of the Harper Collins edition of that book, a
book I only got after a year of "we no get am, try Modern Bookshop".
Why did she do it? And because I am thinking, I realize it is because
she can. I cherish the artistic freedom above all the HR's so I
understand how she did it. It is because I, in each cell of my body,
affirm she should be able to write anything she wants. But this
writing – this nauseating description I find so disagreeable, is it
sensible - for Miss Adichie to have written it? She is an artist and
inspiration is the reception of special sensitivity, perceiving the
commonplace differently. That is where our writing comes from.
Considering this, do we, should we, not be mindful of the
sensitivity, cultural sensitivity, of others? Is Miss Adichie trying
to set herself up as a martyr? Why? Has she been sensible or

Sardauna Bello's death, his murder, his assassination, the eclipse of
his sun – there was a context to it and I have so far appreciated
Miss Adichie's attempt to write a balanced if at times enervating
novel about the sixties, a trying time for Nigeria. But I will go to
that context later. I return to sensibility and sensitivity. Am I
insensibly questioning her sensibility – do I seek to curtail her
freedom by questioning its use? Let me carry out a test. If a German
were to write a book setting out in glory terms the history of the
Third Reich, for the purpose of "memory", and in it he describes the
details of the holocaust in stark, gory detail using the simile that
the tragic equanimity in the faces of Jews just outside the gas
chambers was like the harmony of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's
Swan Lake – what would be the reaction? Outrage! If I or a Fulani
friend of mine were to describe the 1945 or 1966 killing of Igbo's in
Northern Nigeria in the terms that the wail of Igbo women as they
were being raped and disemboweled, the scream of their husbands and
sons, sounded like the sweet music of Dan Maraya's violin – what
would be the reaction? Why, outrage! Yet, here Miss Adichie has
described the death of Sardauna Bello, the son of a sultan and an
almost mythic leader of a still conservative northern Nigeria,
describing his murder by a man he knew personally and trusted, by a
man who had eaten at his table, repeating that that same Sardauna
died bleating like a goat in a Rex Lawson song – what should be the
reaction? But no, I am calm. I am typing calm. Has this test been
unreasonable or insensible or insensitive? The outrage I am spending
typing this email, is it in the first place, unjustified? I also am
an artist and I ask if a people are not entitled to their religious,
political, cultural, all else, sensibilities and its respect – must
the freedom of art be used to bait those sensitivities as you would a
bear with dogs? Miss Adichie, is that simile necessary to your plot,
a must-be-there flourish of your style?

I am going back to the real terms, past and present, context of the
1960's including Sardauna Bello's death. Oftentimes, I hear the
ha'tuppeny demagogues the Nigerian middleclass routinely throws up
relentlessly say that the "North" has ruined Nigeria, you do not need
to prod for them to lay back an reel out their fingers; the war
criminal Gowon, squandermania Shagari, grim dicatator Buhari, wily
minded Nobel laureate compromising IBB, the Ken Saro Wiwa killing
Abacha and soon, perhaps, "the Olusegun Obasanjo foisting
Abdulsalam". But amnesia makes none of them say that of all these
Chief Executives, only Shagari won an election, the rest of them are

But how did soldiers get to be Chief Executives of Nigeria, who
opened the sluices for them to come in? The same men who killed
Sardauna Bello and PM Balewa and Chief Okotie Eboh. The same men who
killed duly elected Nigerian politicians. The same men who murdered
Colonel Pam. THEY opened the sluices! Yet, Miss Adichie has described
the death of an elected premier of a region comprising at least half
of Nigeria's 1966 population with the distasteful, odious simile she
has used. In denigrating the Sardauna, she elevates his murderer: in
rejecting teething politics, she accepts shinbone dictatorship. It is
as simple and horrific as that. My grandfather and the grandfathers
of my friends voted for that man, I took my degree in the university
he built, I and many young people in this country revere him for what
he set out to achieve and what he did achieve – now, is Miss
Adichie's description not baiting? What else is it?

Okay, I follow her. Creative naiveté! Of all the intellectual, talk
less behavioral, crimes which I find most odious, creative naiveté is
by far the most disgusting, the one that sets my hair on fire.
Because it rests on "I did not know . . . " when the most
unreasonable reasonable man OUGHT to know! To this email, Miss
Adichie's response would be either "I did not mean to hurt your Arewa
sensibility, I was merely trying to write a novel with the end of
blaming the British. . . . ." or she could say "I don't give a shit,
I wrote my novel and that's that!" Both possible responses fount from
creative naiveté, the first because she should have taken reasonable
care and the second, because she is a proudly Nigerian writer and the
consequent truth that both sides of the yellow sun, "north" and
south, read her novels. Creative naiveté.

Another example, I want to say why another cause of anger amongst the
youth of my "north". A friend from Nnewi, a true friend who protected
me from my mischief in primary school and who has kept in touch over
the years, has told me on more than one occasion that Nzoegwu and his
murderous crew were stymied, "hijacked in motion", that their ends
were visionary and they indeed were patriots. Nzoegwu, Ifeajuna –
they were educated men, in fact, I discount their altruism. Now, tell
me a single revolution, from Moses to Alexander to Tewodros II to
Marx unto Lenin to Castro, that has not been stymied either by
reactionary forces on the ground or by the force itself, Time? Tell
me a single one. Yet, they, for their brilliant altruism and quarter
baked communism, killed amongst the finest officials and officers in
the North and West. Did you not know the end, Mr. Nzoegwu and Mr.
Ifeajuna, did you not know how it would end, that in blowing up
Sardauna Bello's house in Kaduna, you were opening the gates for a
three and a half decade long soccer game for camouflage wearing black
bats? Ah, I see, I understand, you claim the privilege of creative
naiveté! "We did not KNOW." Miss Adichie, you who were born in '77,
you who know how it ended, do you now see the interlinked matrix of
your pedigree, the correct understanding of your simile, why I am
outraged, why I could be very angry as I type this email? I detest
bumblers. The most atrocious things in history have always begun with
a bumbler, a unit of quirk – Hitler, or syphilis.

My head hurts, I think I am tired. I really wish Miss Adichie would
be more sensitive and sensible in her future writing. She is a
Nigerian writer and we all, in the north and south, are damn proud of
her - for the acclaim and recognition she has garnered
internationally because it inspires us to keep trying to tell the
little Nigerian story each of us has, it validates the little Nigeria
we carry around with us and makes possible the future Nigeria we
dream each night about. Her debut novel was first referred to me by
an ex-girlfriend Hadiza, who is from Bauchi – Hadiza bought 5 copies
of the Kachifo edition when it became available, just to give away,
she loved Miss Adichie's Kambili and Jaja, "Kambili is such a fine
name!" she would say, and maybe her husband would let her name her
child Kambili. But I know for a fact, that she is from Tafawa Balewa
and if Miss Adichie were to use the sort of tasteless simile she has
used for Sardauna Bello to describe the PM's killing in the
subsequent pages of Half of a Yellow Sun, Hadiza would be as
disturbed as I am now.

Miss Adichie might consider the Sardauna mis-reference as a small,
little thing, one page in over four hundred pages. But that is what a
bumble is, a tiny little auspicious quirk. Look at the news from a
few days ago, the Danish embassy bombing in Pakistan – see what a
little quirk does? I get angry sometimes. There are people who
rationalize things, who understand and quite easily discount the
quirks of others; most times, I am that way. But there is a tiny
minority, as tiny really as the inciting incident, a cartoon or
paranoia or a paragraph in a historical fiction, who can be counted
on to creatively use their outrage and tempers to do atrocious
things, the bombing of embassies or the burning of books. I love
people trying to make a living each day, artists burning their brains
to create, I respect innocence and genius too much to kill or burn
books. But I am not everyone.

Nigeria is a beautiful quilt - a hundred and forty million pixels,
two hundred and fifty patches of varying sizes, colors, textures, and
sensitivities. I think it is possible to tell our stories and to
impress each our histories, without losing, without discarding or
downplaying the importance and sensitivity of each other piece of
fabric. We are a quilt in the making. As your people say, "let both
the eagle and the hawk perch, if any says no to the other, may it not
be well for him" – egbe belu, ugo belu.

Now my anger is gone. I will finish the book.

Re: On Miss Adichie's Sensibility

I wish to make further comments on the comments posted viz my post.
However, I will only comment on those posted as at Fri Jun 6, 2008
7:02 pm. If there are any other opinions expressed viz this strand,
I shall respond to them when I am through with HYS, I have just
under 150 pages and will expedite my pace in view of the sampler
I've gotten. Now –

Dear Oga Ike.
I quote you –
"The passage he'schosen, where the cries of the murdered Sardauna
are equated to the bleating of a goat, is the one part of the
book where Adichie is hardest on her own
people, the Igbo. That passage recounts that some Igbos
celebrated the
Sarduana's death, partying to the tune of the Rex Lawson song.
In the
endless competition between our ethnic nationalities over who has
hurt who the most, Adichie in writing that passage . . . "

I hope in breaking your long line, I have not hurt your meaning. My
question to you is – does Miss Adichie's "balancing" the odious
simile on page 130 by "being hard on her people" compensate for the
insensitivity of that misuse? That really is the simple question.
However, for you to have brought it up, you have answered that
question and your answer is "yes". On that score, we are different.
I do not compensate insensitivity and I think no one, in creative
fiction should – what I do is to state or not to state. Compensation
breeds atrophy, whether it is in fiction or in "sharing the national
cake." And for good measure, regarding that passage – I am NOT

Then you go on about "ethnic nationalities" competing. This is part
of the problem, the competition between "ethnic nationalities", what
ethnic nationalities? What is competing with what? Ethnic – is it
Igbo words fighting duels with Hausa words? Or is it the Igbo way of
paying "bride price" competing with the Fulani "sharro" ordeal? Or
is it the Igbo concept of having an "obi" versus the Hausa concept
of having a "zaure"? Ethnic. No sir, ethnicities do not compete, do
not duel! It is political interest that duels, that competes;
economic interests are at odds, power play, plays for power – yes.
But not the ethnico-cultural components of superstructures. Is
there, has there ever been any point in time when ethnic components
have clashed? Look at the conquistadors and the indigenous people in
South America – was it ethnicity, or "civilization" that was
competing or clashing? Or was it economics and politics? To assume
that Nigerian history is one of "competing ethnic nationalities" is
to prove a Unified Filed Theory with a false equation ab initio. I
do not think such time wasting conceit is more forgivable because it
has become ingrained.

And I particularly dislike this mis-adaptation of Joseph Nye and
Bernard Lewis.

Then you go on "justifications given by apologists of the 1966
pogrom is that Igbos were openly rejoicing in the North when the
Sarduna was killed". I tell you, any apologists for the 1966 killing
of Igbo's in Nigeria or any other killings in any country, is a
fool. What apology? People were killed and you are writing and
reading apologies? People were killed, on both sides, two parties
fought a war and you are justifying – what In the name of anything
is there to justify? Who are you justifying or apologizing to – the
dead? Tell me, as a human being, was it not atrocious that the
Sardauna was killed – was it not atrocious that Igbos were rejoicing
in Kano on that day, was not the subsequent retaliatory killings

If we must write historical fiction, let us either be as close to
history and its nuances as possible, or let us so caricature history
that no one would take it seriously. Or let us disclaim history, as
Helon Habila did in the authorial note at the back of his first
novel, and simply write fiction without context. I know there are
scholars who question even the appropriateness of the novel format
when writing about serious history. What in Gods name is more
serious than a civil war? Miss Adichie has not indicated in any way
that her novel was meant to be a burlesque pantomime and I do not
think you should assume so on her behalf.

You go on, I quote "Is Rugbali reading the book Adichie has written
or another book which he thinks she might have written?" I find this
question insulting. When you, Ike, read a book – do you read the
words or what you think is on the page?

You comment on Ama Ede's post, saying some main Igbo characters were
not disposed to Ojukwu. Correct. So, what is Miss Adichie's point of
writing HYS – was it to upset everyone, or to write a screed the
sort only silly academic critics in the West would praise?

Oga Austyn,
To your amazement. You say "Of all the gory scenes and atrocities
committed on both sides, as Miss Adichie graphically portrayed in
Half of a Yellow Sun, without being partisan, it is simply laughable
to me, a non-hero worshipper, that Ali should single out the
reference to how the Sardauna died as the centre point of his
outrage against a book he has not even finished reading!"

Let me test your "amazement". Do you not find it equally "amazing"
that in my 1,000-word post, you only single out my outrage over the
Sardauna's killing? Did I not mention related issues to the
Sardauna's killing including why my part of the north would be
outraged by that sloppy portrayal? Are you not equally amazed by
your own "singling out"? My point is this – we are outraged by
particulars, hardly ever by genera. I read that page and I was upset
by it, I could not go on reading without sending out that post
because not letting it out of me would have colored the rest of the

You go on "When we fly into a fit of outrage upon perceived
insensitivity to our personal sensibilities, do we not sometimes do
so out of the fear of demystification of our supposed heroes? Do we
not often refuse to query our age-long beliefs and norms out of the
fear of new discoveries? Has Ali read Helon Habila's account of the
savageries committed against the ibos in Measuring Time, during the
same period Miss Adichie wrote about? Has he also read R.A
Masagbor's "like rats" in SOLEMN CHANTS? and many other eye-
witnesses accounts?" –

I say: Fine point! If only Miss Adichie had set out on demystifying!
If she had set out on demystifying my "supposed hero" she could have
set out in her prose say perhaps how he was pilfering state funds to
build himself a pyramid in Eqypt, or something like that. How on
earth does her restating with such bad taste that he died bleating
like a goat in a Rex Lawson song demystify the Sardauna? I am
afraid, yes, but not of demystification – I am afraid of the foster
child of disgust arising from her insensitivity. And insensibility.
And there is nothing "personal" about our collective history. You
mention Helon Habila's second novel, I ask you, is there any page in
that book where a description of the war went past the use of
necessary adjectives into the realm of denigrating individual
Igbo's, talk less a Premier, with a simile similar to the one I
refuse to repeat? What I think is that if such a page exists, I
would have heard thunder asking for Mr Habila's head.

Sardauna Bello did the best he could do for his people just as
Awolowo and Zik did the best they could do for their people. They
were men of their times and let us not denigrate them, else we
should not complain of what came after them.

To your use of "ibos", I have been cautioned severally that the
correct word is "Igbo's". But perhaps that was a keyboard error.

My position, thus far, has been well stated by Ama Ede, he says "HYS
is good writing no doubt, nevertheless perhaps the problem is that
authorial position on certain sensitive historical matters are
ambivalent, equivocating. No clear self-positioning on something so
sensitive. That is the problem."

I sincerely hope that at the end of the 400 plus page book, Miss
Adichie would have redeemed this malady in her writing.

I have as yet, made no comments on HYS as a book, that I will do in
good time. What I have done is to comment on an offensive little bit
of HYS.

I hope to finish the novel sometime next week and I will surely keep
my opinion on HYS posted on this board.

Have a fine weekend everyone!


Half of a Yellow Sun -my opinion, related issues

I have been made aware that my previous post on Chimamanda Adichie's
Half of a Yellow Sun has put me in the untenable position of having my
literary objectivity distrusted on account of the passion of opinion
viz Sardauna Bello's murder. I shall comment on this questioned
subjectivity later in this post. Nevertheless, I wish to set out,
first, my opinion on the book – I finished reading it 2 hours ago –
and then I shall move on to related issues.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a very interesting and remarkably
well-researched book. That is my opinion. The only accusation I make
against it is the one of insensitivity and a related insensibility
regarding page 130 where she relates the death of Sardauna Bello. I
have stated my opinion of that flaw and highlighted its significance
even if the second has been lost in the reactions to the first. It is
my opinion that she could have related the same thing without using
that simile. I think HYS is an important book.

Now, a girl, Olohi used to be in charge of fashion a few years ago
when I was Editor of Sardauna Magazine and my memory of her comes down
to two phrases – "Style is personal" and "Your style is up to you."
Agreeing entirely with her, I should not make any comments concerning
the style of Miss Adichie's book published two years ago. But au
contraire, I choose to comment on her style in spite of that futility.
Only in doing so would my idea of the character of her novel come out.

I think it was wrong for me to describe HYS as being "soulless", it
was the wrong word; a phrase is more appropriate, HYS has a "scattered
soul". It does beg the question whether a soul can be scattered and
whether it still would be a soul if it has that scattered quality yet
I feel this distinction is necessary. The characters in HYS are
clearly more delineated than they were in Purple Hibiscus yet it would
seem that in delineating them she has gone so far as to plasticise
them, giving the novel a stage production feel of stock characters.
The literary authorial style is ambivalent, describing event after
event related only because they occur to the same set of people. It
seems surrealist and I, personally, think that surrealism – Dali and
his contemporaries- is Fraud and not Art. I get the distinct feeling
that Miss Adichie is not in this book. I get even, the queasy feeling
that while I am reading it, she is sitting under an udala tree
laughing and saying "They are going to puzzle over this one!" Deux ex
machina is contrived by a playwright but sometimes, the playgoers also
realize it and they can discount or not discount that trick depending
on whether it works for the play or not. Miss Adichie assures me {in
the extra interview-QandA behind the Harper Collins edition} that this
style was deliberate and it somehow comes from her reading of Harvest
of Thorns by Shimmer Chindoya and the intro of a Giovanni Verga novel.

Now, is this style appropriate for the subject of Half of a Yellow
Sun? I don't know, but I am determined to find out.

Christopher Okonkwo in his post has said `In any case, HYS is
categorically a "historical novel"' and I agree with him, sort of.
When writing creative fiction, especially historical fiction, a writer
is faced with his context – whether he wants to be purely historicist
or whether he wants to be creative. There really is no middle way
between the two until Miss Adichie's novel and her novel within a
novel – a historicist novel within a pseudo historicist one. The
historicist one is character Ugwu's novel "The World Was Silent When
We Died" and the pseudo historicist one is the one that has Olanna and
Kainene and ends with Susan Buchan's pictures from Biafra. This
stylistic choice, even before going to the characters themselves,
mires the novel in the ambivalence that seems to me frightfully close
to indifference.

When a novel relies solely on its received historical context {what
each reader/critic knows about it], aspersions are cast as to the
talent or sincerity of the writer. It is the same thing as saying to a
child, "This is Magic Beans, it turns into gold at night. But only
good people as we both can see it. Anybody who cannot see it is not a
good person." HYS context is the sixties and Biafra. Let us compare
HYS with its contemporaries. Sefi Atta's context is Nigeria between
the 1970's and 1995, the erosion of constitutional rights in that
period – take away that historical context and you still have a
powerful story of Enitan and Sheri and their relationships with women
and men. Helon Habila's Waiting for An Angel is set in Abacha's
dictatorship but if you remove that context, you still have an
engaging story of Lomba and the other characters living interrelated
lives. But take away Biafra from HYS and what we have is sibling
rivalry {Olanna and Kainene} in its stark triteness – pretty sister
versus "ugly" sister, "kiss ass" sister versus "don't give a damn"
sister. And as a creative writing, I do not think that that theme is
remarkable in any way. And neither has it been handled in a remarkable

But then, why should I want to remove the context from a novel – don't
mind me, only for critical purposes. Let us replace the context. The
bloody stillbirth of Biafra and what I think Madeibo calls "the
Nigerian revolution" that predated it are very sensitive issues,
remain sensitive issues today. It remains sensitive because is we stop
snipping little pieces of it we would still see that the great rend
made to our politics by the murderers in January 1966 is still here
with us. Every single goddamn coup, every silly dictator sporting a
grim face, gap tooth or dark goggles traces his antecedence to that
coup. Nigeria's progress has been held back for no reason greater than
the ineptitude of the military regimes since independence. Nigeria's
progress has been held back because of the events of the sixties which
for the backdrop to HYS.

Let me digress into Constitutional Law, what each of those military
regimes did was to simply modify Aguiyi-Ironsi's constitution
suspension Decree which had remained part of our body of laws, not a
single junta promulgated a new decree to take power, they simply
"suspended and modified". Even with the current state of international
jus cogens, you cannot try anyone in the Nigerian judiciary, from
Gowon to Abacha for taking over power in Nigeria via a coup – the
persons primarily culpable are Nzoegwu and his pals and I think all of
them are dead now. Today, there are many of us who are unhappy with
Nigeria as it is. The point of this digression is to show how germane
and sensitive the stuff Miss Adichie is playing around with is to the
collective sensibility of Nigerians. Yet, for this, she has willfully
chosen a leisurely style, one based on "balancing" atrocities so we

Am I wrong to say that what she has succeeded in doing is to poke at
an old national wound without having any medicine for it – and that
for memory, "just so you remember you were wounded before?"

If I think of it, her entire authorial and narrative perspective is
VERY offensive. But I refuse to think of it because I am afraid that
if I do, I will be "subjective."

I wish to make comments concerning my objectivity-subjectivity in the
post titled "On Miss Adichie's Sensibility" posted here on Krazi.

TYAbiola has doubted my ability to be objective in giving an opinion
on HYS because of my posts regarding the simile HYS repeats viz the
assassination of the Northern region premier and in his words, the
objectivity of my criticism might be doubted on account of the "too
much passion, too much subjectivity, too much pre-conceived opinion"
that I bring to the topic. Well, if I did not have passion, why would
I comment in the first place? I hardly think that anyone can read
literature, especially historical fiction without passion. Yet, does
passion, the expression of it, equal "subjectivity" and a
"preconceived opinion"? "Preconceived" at what point? What makes this
aspersion doubly interesting to me is not so much that it has been
stated by Mr. Abiola as that is merely being re-stated by him – I have
heard it before said by other persons. Methinks such an aspersion
comes either from my opining, or, the nature of my opining. If it were
the first then it would be a moot intellectual point. And critics
perhaps hundreds of years ago would have come out to say "Every
opinion should be distrusted because it is subjective" – I am not
aware of our predecessors having with this phrase knocked off the
basis of discourse. So, it must be the second – the nature of my
opining. At this point, I would like to say my next point is exploring
a general symptom in Nigerian letters and has long left the particular
prognosis of Mr. Abiola.

When I hear on the Beebs that some scholars in the west are
re-appraising Edward Said's "Orientalism" and its theme of
preconceived stereotypes of the East in the West, I find myself
thinking of the "Northernism" {sic} in Nigerian letters, preconceived
stereotypes of the "north" of the Niger by intellectuals by that
river's south. It has become ingrained that anything written, which
has its centerpiece as a northern Nigerian figure or nuance, such as
the Sardauna or the issue of Sharia or even a different perception of
the paper cut notions of what makes a page in a book like HYS
insensitive or insensible is viewed by the southern intelligentsi with
that curious "they have started again" which smacks of preconceived
prejudice. I have wondered often the innate assumptions of superior
"objectivity" so easily wielded by my southern countrymen, an
assumption so latent that Ike feels Miss Adichie's {to me} denigration
of Sardauna Bello should be borne by the offended me because she has
been equally "hard on her own people" or Oga Austyn's even more
remarkable assumption "The northern elite has a choice to either
understand it in the context in which it is written, or throw it to
the Almajeris with a covering note. Mischief is also a function of
sensibilities, political or religious"! In simpler English, what Oga
Austyn's quote means is that in not "understanding" the "context" {of
Miss Adichie's simile}, I {assuming I am part of that "northern
elite"} would effectively be being mischievous! I would like to know,
please, Oga Austyn, if I have misunderstood your phrase. These
comments, these posturing, these perspectives have become ingrained –
I do not think any of these three fine people are any more aware of it
that they are the inner working of their digestive systems.

Oya, I am interested now and it is Oga Austyn's quote, the last one,
that interests me. Am I being mischievous by not understanding Miss
Adichie's "balanced" context? And if I accuse Miss Adichie and Austyn
himself of being indifferent, creatively or really, to my own context
nko? Is my reactionary context a "preconceived" notion while Miss
Adichie's radically "balanced" one is not?

My problem is not so much with HYS as with that odious simile on page
130 – I cannot understand why Miss Adichie had to repeat it.

And a story {novel} is very important business; do you remember what
the bard says about the primacy of the story and the storyteller – I
think it was in Anthills of the Savannah. He said when a storyteller
looks around and sees no one in his age group; he will transform
chicken pox spots to wounds he suffered when "our men beat their men"!
I take Achebe very seriously and in the same breath that he eulogizes
the story, he advises that we tell our stories and keep our stories,
if others tell them, true. The man at the center of this post,
Sardauna Bello, once said "Tell us the truth about others; tell others
the truth about us." Not just us, as persons, but Us, as history.

I am a Nigerian writer and will proudly stand on that pedestal against
any person in the West, I would stand with any of my countrymen on
that pedestal anywhere. Yet, within my country, I speak for a part of
the country that has largely not spoken for itself and against the
rude assumptions consequent upon that incapacity to speak, I make a
stand. Yes, damnit, it is related to the Civil War – the same thing
Miss Adichie is playing around with. Over the last two decades, longer
for some, attempts have been made by many writers of southern
extraction in their writings to foist the North {excluding the defacto
West} with a guilt that it does not feel for that war or
alternatively, for the intervening dictatorships. This aspersion of
guilt is never attempted with the Yoruba in the southwest – on what do
these attempts lie? On the denigration, little by little, of our
memory of that war – in the Lagos-Ibadan press, on page 130 of Miss
Adichie's second novel.

That is my personal context and unlike many in the north, who are
content to remain in Zaria and Kaduna and Abuja, I am not so content –
I demand to engage with the south with my historical context in tow.

I like testing. Let me test something again. June 12th is around the
corner, please, those of you who can still buy more than one newspaper
a day, do note the media coverage/editorials of that watershed in
Nigerian history. Most of what you will read will be about Basorun
Abiola and how his mandate was snatched from him by the "north"
{meaning the little dictator erstwhile friend of the Basorun's} and
such other cant. Yet, and we were all here, none of us were born
yesterday – two people were murdered by the Nigerian state in the
aftermath of Sani Abacha's death. They were Basorun Abiola and General
Yar'adua. You wont hear the latter's name in the southern press. Yet,
in real terms, how did the Basorun get to win the 1993 election? On
whose machinery did he ride – certainly not on his own! But Yar'adua
is conveniently forgotten in the creative coverage of the June 12th
and he more than anyone else, more than all the silly pundits and
NGO's, is linked to the death to that mandate. Go on, observe the
papers over the next week or so and say if I am wrong.

Why do I bring this up? Because that is my context! My context is of
my historical and cultural sensibilities being eroded by others whose
historical and cultural sensibilities are no more authentic, are at
best complementary, to mine.

I really think this email has gone on for too long, let me recap.
Chimamanda's novel is, as I said, "interesting" and "well researched".
But page 130, which I have a problem with, projects a certain
mis-perception of historical fact that is a part of an ongoing
discontextualization of comprehensive Nigerian history. Perhaps it is
not her fault, she writes what is conditioned in her.

But do not accuse me of subjectivity because I point her error out.

Thank you.

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