The winning of the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun” (2006), is a matter for serious reflection.
Now we will have to address the significance of Adichie in contemporary Nigerian literary praxis. We will have to ask why Nigerian literature has been in the doldrums since Wole Soyinka’s Nobel Prize in 1986 and Ben Okri’s Booker Prize in 1991. What made the writing of the third generation’s Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and Christopher Okigbo as globally commanding as the writing of the first generation’s Olaudah Equiano? What made the writing of the second generation as weak as the writing of the fourth generation and much of the fifth generation?
Adichie has rediscovered the magic of great art and serious discourse. She has eschewed pretentiousness and self-flagellation; she has taken the bull by the horn, called a spade a spade, mocked national injustice and travesty, and given hope to the faint in spirit. She has not asked for charity and has not hidden her disgust for the debasing mess of porridge in which many self-adulating “writers” have stewed themselves.
Adichie prides herself as a child who was raised in the faculty house at Nsukka which was previously occupied by Achebe and Michael J. C. Echeruo. She has carved her art as “the branch of a giant fennel” which was the fountain of Achebe, Soyinka, and Okigbo’s discursive thriller. Like the three elders she has drawn her subjects on a historical national dilemma. Her direct model in Africa is none other than Nadine Gordimer.
As Achebe says of Okonkwo in “Things Fall Apart,” Adichie has washed her hands and dined with elders. I toast Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s winning of the 2007 Orange Prize in honor of the one who “came almost fully made.” I toast for the re-centering of serious discourse in Nigerian and African literature. I toast for the global acclaim of “Half of a Yellow Sun” and the emergence of Biafran Babies literature!