Chimamanda is a figure who has acquired great international relevance thanks to her small works in support of the international feminist movement (works which, in my opinion, are no more than facile pamphlets for mass consumption).
However, she is essentially a narrative writer with a literary career that is turning her into a universal writer with a very prominent African component.
American critics have definitively crowned her as one of the most interesting voices in the English language thanks to “Americanah” by awarding her the National Critics’ Prize. A narrative in which she explores her crusade against single history in a drift that takes place on three continents.
Prior to this work he wrote: The Purple Flower (three novels and a book of short stories written in English); Half a Yellow Sun; Something Around Your Neck (stories are by Nigerians in the United States).
HALF A YELLOW SUN
Chimamanda lives in the USA, but she is Nigerian by birth, of Igbo tradition (one of the majority -but not representative- ethnic groups in the country).
This work: “Half a Yellow Sun”, a title taken from the coat of arms that was chosen at the time for the independence project of the Biafra region, with an Igbo majority, is set in the years leading up to the war for the independence of this region of Nigeria, which was finally lost, giving rise to a humanitarian catastrophe.
Throughout the pages “recreates the lives of three characters caught up in the turbulence of the decade: young Ugwu, a clerk in the house of a revolutionary-minded university professor; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful wife, who for love has abandoned her privileged life in Lagos to live in a dusty town; and Richard, a shy young Englishman who is in love with Olanna’s sister, a mysterious woman who refuses to commit herself to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance, the protagonists of this story must defend their beliefs and reaffirm their loyalties”.
While even J.M. Coetzee considers it an extraordinary novel, I have to say that while all of the above makes Chimamanda promising reading, my experience is that it is a sluggish text with no clear drift until well into the second half of the book that provides anything of interest to those of us who, like me, endlessly study all possible versions of contemporary African history.
It is possible that much of the blame for the story’s lack of substance lies with the translation, though that is not enough to call this work weak.
I have read her feminist pamphlets and I promise to read at least Americanah, and when I do I promise to do so without expectation.
That said, it does not detract from the recognition that anyone who undertakes the noble task of writing a book deserves.
Chimamanda returns to Lagos every summer to give writing workshops at the Farafina Fund, which she set up with her Nigerian publisher to promote reading and writing.
Before the Second World War, black intellectuals who studied in Paris saw how European colonial powers suppressed African culture. Central to their thinking was a feasible, collective African identity, Négritude. In using this name, they changed a term with negative connotations, nègre, into a word that can express the value of black culture and history. The Négritude movement formed the basis of the magazine Présence Africaine and the “First Congress of Black Writers and Artists”, held in 1956 in Paris. Leading roles were played by the intellectuals Aimé Césaire, Alioune Diop, and Léopold Senghor. They placed great value on precolonial African traditions and art, while also applying modernist strategies in their work, such as alienation, fragmentation, and experimentation.
For black artists in Paris, it was shocking to see important African objects in museums which could scarcely still be found in African countries, a cynical consequence of colonial history. Présence Africaine, which is active to this day, offered a platform to intellectuals who wanted to give shape to a black self-awareness in the modern world, Or as its founder Diop put it, “Présence Africaine is open to the good will of all men (white, yellow, or black) who can help to define African originality and hasten its insertion into the modern world”.