Chimamanda Adichie (BSS #141)

Chimamanda Adichie is most recently the author of Half of a Yellow Sun.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Finding uses for his Kleenex supply.

Author: Chimamanda Adichie

Subjects Discussed: Young novelists and ambitious war novels, horrible Nigerian critics, the novel as the ideal prism for the Biafra conflict, A Woman in Berlin, the advantages of small details, J.G. Ballard, twins, the advantages of narrative dichotomies, adultery and monogamy, relationship fidelity vs. national fidelity, sensuality, specific sexual positions, serial adultery, the skin metaphor, jumping around in time periods, High Life music, the faults of education as a revolutionary galvanizing point, the ethical vacillation of Ugwu, whether sparse details convey the complexities of war, Toni Morrison’s reluctance to write about sex in detail, the advantages of teaching writing classes, names, whether Half of a Yellow Sun is a political book, an unexpected digression concerning Ms. Adichie’s cell phone, and sermonizing in fiction.


Correspondent: I wanted to actually talk about the violence in this book. You describe if often very sparsely. The bodies are decapitated. The people are massacred through brutal racism. But you don’t dwell on really elaborate detail of these particular — of this violence. And even Ugwu’s finale — near the end, I mean, his choice at that bar, it’s only like a half page of ethical vacillation. So I wanted to kind of ask you about that. Do you feel that stopping short sometimes really conveys the complexities of war? Was this an issue for you? Or is this more about the narrative than it is about depicting war?

Adichie: I think it’s about both. I do think that, in much the same way that details work better when you’re writing about something huge. I also feel that if you’re writing about something difficult, violent, that less is more. You know? And that sometimes you run the risk of having it become pornographic. I didn’t see myself — I didn’t want to, quite frankly, describe those bodies over and over. I sometimes feel that one tiny detail is enough. I remember reading something about Toni Morrison, where she said, for her, sex scenes were — she tells the reader, a man is on top, the woman is underneath, and she leaves it there, you know. And I remember reading that and thinking — and she lets the reader and she thinks that’s enough. All you need to know is who’s on top and then you make up the rest. I don’t share that when it comes to sexuality. I sort of want to tell you what happens. But when it comes to violence, I think I do. You know, I want to give you a tiny detail and then — I just don’t want it to get…I think that it’s very easy to go overboard with violence and it makes me uncomfortable. And I think that it also might have something to do with the fact that I was always aware that I was writing about something that really did happen to people. And there’s a kind of — I don’t know if it’s respect. Maybe it’s community that I wanted to bring to those scenes of violence.

Correspondent: I can totally see what you’re saying, but doesn’t this kind of get in the way of pursuing the truth further and really getting at this…?

Adichie: No, I don’t think so. I actually think that sometimes it might make it closer to the truth.



    I was gearing up to read your works until I read your interviews. It then felt like I had read all your work. Please I genuinely do not mean any offence at all but you strike me as emotionally Biafran and commercially Nigerian.Plainly put, naive war monger and mercenary writer – and you seem , with characteristic cultural arrogance, to damn the damage it may cause your respectability, even in the long run?
    Clearly, you reserve the right to feel as you wish but not to write ‘factually based fiction’ from the perspective of those who ‘got what they deserved’.
    What about the silent Minority (the Yorubas) who got what they did not deserve?

  2. Paschal Obinna Ozoigbo

    I do not quite agree with Ayo Falae; Adichie is a writer who has expressed an indomitable sense of pride about a people, the Biafrans, through Half of a Yellow Sun. She has made the world understand that the Igbo are a brave and fearless and hospitable people who have always wanted peace and harmony to reign in any nation in which they find themselves. And if they do not find it, they will, undauntedly, go to any length to look for it. But it’s very unfortunate that America and Britain, of all people, were not there for them in the course of their struggle to protect Biafra, their new-born child, from that horrible predator, Nigeria.

    This Biafra story was not told by Adichie out of emotion. It is a story told out of national pride, a story born from the fact that Adichie, like every other person who was once Biafran, passionately wanted that it be told to the whole world again and again, especially to every man, woman and child from the Igbo community.

    Adichie simply wanted to remind the Igbo community, and of course the whole world, what happened at some point in the history of the Igbo. She wanted, in my estimation, to exhume an event, which was long buried by the new Nigeria that emerged thereafter. She wanted to, at least, educate her contemporaries who never witnessed the genocide, so that they would have a right sense of identity after knowing who they were, where they were coming from and where they are heading, presently.

    Paschal Obinna Ozoigbo
    Lagos, Nigeria.

  3. Marian Amoye

    Falae sounds like a typical uneducated Nigerian who obviously did not read the book. Do read and enjoy, draw from the values. Who really deserves to suffer. Do stop thinking within the box and act like you belong to a generation of change in Nigeria.

  4. ayobami

    I am Yoruba and I think Mr Falae should 1) read the book and 2) learn a little more about Nigerian politics before running his mouth. By the way Mr Falae, it is unfortunate that though you are Yoruba, you are unaware that the Yoruba are NOT a minority. Plus we are definitely not a silent tribe, check out Awolowo’s role in the war. Kudos to Miss Adichie

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