Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie by The Women's Prize for Fiction.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie by The Women's Prize for Fiction.

Read Chimamanda’s Answers in Half of a Yellow Sun Read Along

Read Chimamanda’s Answers in Half of a Yellow Sun Read Along

Over the past few weeks, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie took readers on a read along of her beloved second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction (then the Orange Prize for Fiction) in 2007 and last year bagged the prize’s “Winner of Winners” award. The weekly #ReadAlongWithChimamanda was a virtual reading session where readers asked her questions and gained more insight about the book.

For the final week of #ReadAlongWithChimamanda, Adichie responded to questions on the concluding chapters of the novel, ranging from the effects of the war and a maybe-sequel to “morally complex” character choices and lighthearted inquiries about coconut-scented perfumes.

“I actually really enjoyed it,” she said about answering readers’ questions. “I always kind of knew I had really great fans and readers, but I’m realizing just how clever and thoughtful and bright my readers are, and it’s actually been quite a pleasure. Also, to read my own book through the eyes of my readers after so many years has actually been interesting for me.”

Open Country Mag brings you some of the questions and Adichie’s answers, condensed.

Question:

How much or little can or must parents and adults shield children from violent realities? Olanna wanted a sense of normalcy as much as possible for Baby, but Kainene encouraged Baby to lean into the realities of war, giving her shrapnel as toys, telling her to hold a dagger, make laser traps.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

I think I would personally be somewhere in-between both Olanna and Kainene. Actually, I would be more toward Kainene. I would probably give my child shrapnel to play with, because I think, obviously, we should protect children, but we have a responsibility not to lie to children about things that have real consequences.

Question:

Do you think Richard will ever be whole again?               

CNA:

No. I think some people are fortunate to have a certain kind of love in their lives, and that when they lose that, they are never the same again. And I think what Richard felt for Kainene was that.

Question:

Is there a sequel in the making?

CNA:

No. I believe in “never say never,” because there are things that in the past I said “never” to and I ended up doing. But I really don’t think there’s going to be a sequel.

Question:

At what point while writing the novel did it dawn on you that Kainene would or should not return, and did you feel a sadness, a kind of uncertain bereavement, on Olanna’s behalf?

CNA:

This is a lovely question, and, yes, I did. I continued to feel sadness, not just for Olanna, but for Richard as well. I’m not sure when I knew. I knew that I could not write a book about Biafra and have a happy ending, but I wasn’t sure that it would be Kainene. But as the book and the storytelling evolved, it kind of became Kainene.

Question:

Do you think that many people, mostly from the North and South-West, are today still as ignorant about the ravages of the Biafra genocide? Mohammed’s letter to Olanna had incensed her because he was oblivious to the anguish the war had waged upon her and most Easterners.

CNA:

Yes, but I think it’s also important for us to keep in mind that his ignorance was not malicious. There were many people who just did not know, and so acted on their ignorance.

Question:

Does it bother you that everyday you’re being asked about the whereabouts of Kainene, which could suggest that people are yet to fully understand the tragedy of the war and how, like Kainene, people disappeared and never came back? Is there a feeling that, not minding how widely read Half of a Yellow Sun is, Nigerians do not still understand what they have read and just think it’s all fiction, which is why they project endings that betray the true Biafran story?

CNA:

No, it doesn’t. I think people are just connected to the character. I think, yes, there is an extent to which Nigerians still don’t really get what happened, but I also think it’s human nature to want a person that you feel connected to, to survive.

Question:

Olanna smelled like coconuts. Why coconuts, and what perfume did she wear? If the smell could make me half as enchanting as she was, I would gladly get a bottle for myself.

CNA:

Why coconuts? I like coconuts. And the perfume, I cannot tell you, it’s a secret. Because I made it up.

Question:

Do you think Richard was justified in his decision to withhold the truth of what happened to Eberechi from Ugwu, especially in light of his quest to find the truth of what happened to Kainene?

CNA:

This is actually a very morally complex question. But I think I would do the same thing as Richard. I think sometimes we lie to protect people from pain. And I would justify that as his decision being a thing that came from compassion.

Question:

You mentioned that Nigeria still needs some form of reconciliation about the Biafran war. Any ideas about what kind of form that could take?

CNA:

Yes, an open panel, transparent, where people just come and talk about their experience, where people are heard. I also think the Nigerian government should formally talk about some form of restitution for the people, for example, in Port Harcourt, whose buildings were taken over by the government and called “abandoned property”; the Igbo people who were given twenty pounds for all the money that they had, and for all the people who lost their property; for the people in the police force, in the civil service, who were dismissed after the war. And, also, I think that we should have a kind of a formal remembrance, an acknowledgement of this really ugly part of our history. I think it would make a huge difference.

Question:

From your perspective, who is a writer? At what point does one qualify to call himself a writer? Did burning the manuscript automatically end Richard’s career as a writer?

CNA:

I don’t think so. I imagine that Richard continues to write, but of course his subject would be different. And the question of who is a writer, I don’t know, I think a writer is anybody who writes. When I was six years old, I thought I was a writer. So I think being a writer also involves a certain level of delusion, self-delusion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recommendation

“An ambitious new magazine that is committed to African literature"

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

ESSENTIAL, IN-DEPTH STORIES IN AFRICAN LITERATURE: PROFILES, FEATURES, REVIEWS, EVENTS, OPPORTUNITIES, & CONVERSATIONS DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.

We respect your privacy and will never send you Spam or sell your email. 

Top