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« "What I Wish For Cameroon": Ginger Cooper in Her Own Words | Main | Ngozi Adichie Wins 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction »

June 06, 2007

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Onyeka

Chimamanda on writing Half of a Yellow Sun:

"Successful fiction does not need to be validated by "real life"; I cringe whenever a writer is asked how much of a novel is "real". Yet, I find myself thinking differently about the war novels I admire. I have often wondered how much of the character Benjamin in Harvest of Thorns mirrors Shimmer Chinodya, how much of the muted defeat in "Girls at War" is in fact what Chinua Achebe himself felt about the loss of Biafra. Perhaps it is because to write realistic fiction about a war, especially one central to the history of one's country, is to be constantly aware of a responsibility to something larger than art.

While writing Half of a Yellow Sun I enjoyed playing with minor things: inventing a train station in a town that has none, placing towns closer to each other than they are, changing the chronology of conquered cities. Yet I did not play with the central events of that time. I could not let a character be changed by anything that had not actually happened. If fiction is indeed the soul of history, then I was equally committed to the fiction and the history, equally keen to be true to the spirit of the time as well as to my artistic vision of it.

I wanted to write - I had to write - about this period because I grew up in the shadow of Biafra, because I wanted to take ownership of a history that defines me, because I lost both my grandfathers in the war, because many of the issues that led to the war remain salient, because our history makes me sad, because the brutal bequests of colonialism make me angry, because I do not ever want to forget."

Culled from The Guardian
http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,1873583,00.html

Lotus

So happy to have discovered your blog. I was at the Toronto Book Launch last night and I was so impressed with Chimamanda Adichie. She's articulate, interesting and a very engaging speaker. I can't wait to read the book now.

Safiyyah

The Rule of Western Journalism

"Is it possible to see where the Biafran soldiers shot the Italian oil worker?" the readhead asked. "We've done something on that at the Tribune, but I'd like to do a longer feature."

"No, it's not possible," Richard said sharply.

"The readhead was watching him. "Okay. But can you tell me anything new?"

"Richard exhaled. It was like somebody sprinkling pepper on his wound: Thousands of Biafrans were dead, and this man wanted to know if there was anything new about one dead white man. Richard would write about this, the rule of Western journalism: One hundred dead black people equal one dead white person..."

Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi
***************************************
I finished reading this novel this weekend! But when I read this passage, it reminded me of the Iraqi casualties.

According to the website, Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, www.icasualties.org, the US military death toll as of 10/07/06, is 2,744.

According to the website, Iraqi Body Count Database, www.iraqbodycounty.org, the Iraqi civilian death toll as of 10/05/06, is estimated to be between 43,799 and 48,639.

Nightly, on shows like Lou Dobbs (CNN), Americans are told, "Today in Baghdad, insurgents killed one of our coalition forces," or "two of our soldiers were killed in so-and-so province." In numbers of one, two, or three - drip, drip, drip - like Chinese water torture. In October of 2005, Western media and politicians provided non-stop coverage and spin when the death toll for US military forces reached 2,000.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the death of Americans in Iraq is trivial. But what I am saying is that reading this passage from this novel reminded me again that the military death toll is disproportionate to the death toll of Iraqi civilians.

Inna li-lahi wa inna li-layhi raja'un.From Allah we come, and to Him is our return.

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