Monday 26 November 2012

'There Was A Country'... Chimamanda Adichie's own 'brashness'

In her analysis of the ongoing debate over Chinua Achebe’s memoir, There Was A Country, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie noted that Achebe’s book was not well edited and lacked details.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Widely published in Nigeria’s national dailies, yesterday, Sunday November 25, 2012, Adichie’s contribution to the debate on There Was A Country, indeed, was not a critique of Achebe’s work, in the literary context. However, a part of her observations, in just one sentence appears very weighty. Adichie wrote: “I wish There Was A Country had been better edited and more rigorously detailed in its account of the war.”

Irrespective of the potency of Adichie’s observation on the technicalities of Achebe’s book, one may ask: what has the “flaws” got to do with the issue raised in the book or her contribution to the debate? Adichie seemed to have a preemptive answer when she added: “But these flaws do not make it any less seminal: an account of the most important event in Nigeria’s history by Nigeria’s most important storyteller.”

I think it was therefore absolutely unnecessary to mention the “flaws”, except Adichie, a recipient of Orange Prize for Fiction (2004), covertly, wanted to prove a point in literary knowledge. Couldn’t she have mentioned her observation, in private to Achebe rather than to the public, and the international space of the Internet?

Later in the article, she agreed with Achebe that “Igbo themselves were insensitive to” widely accepted views of “brashness that is part of Igbo culture….” Although she described him (Achebe) as “my literary hero”, I think Adichie has her own share of “brashness” by bringing the “flaws” of a revered writer of Achebe’s status to the public.  


  1. I really don't see anything wrong in her mentioning the flaw. It is an inconsequential aside. Those flaws are not necessary his but the publishers. They should have done their job more rigorously. Her text in the newspaper was detailed, balanced and interesting.

    Nothing can diminish the worth of Achebe and there is nothing that says one writer cannot offer major or minor criticism as in this one to a revered writer. As Ms Adichie herself said it was almost impossible to find flaws with the work. But Achebe is only human so there will be a flaw no matter how miniscule. Her comment was not meant to reprimand him but more tongue in cheek. I think you completely missed the point of the comment. But that is not surprising in a country where most forms of criticism major or minor are taken as personal attacks or fights that should be conducted in secret. Long Live the Freedom to say what you have to say and to saying it publicly. That is how debate and discourse thrives.