Saturday, October 27, 2007

Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"The World was silent when we died" was the name Ogwu gave his book. It was not the name invented by him, it was the name of the book Richards was writing and abandoned after the war ended.

Half of a Yellow sun ( the Official Flag of Biafra), is based on the times before and during the troublesome period in Nigeria's existence during the 60s. A Novel by this young writer, is looking at the time and life of two sisters ( twins) of a rich business family. Olanna , who is more educated and having an affair with the progressive and revolutionary thinking professor Odenigbo of Nsukka University. Kainene the second has inclination towards business and is planning to run the family business and has an admirer , Richards a self proclaimed writer and journalist, from Britain. Their respective life is on the roll until the political and social situation in Nigeria started to change. Started as an angry outburst against the Igbo community, who are from the southern part of the Nigeria, controls majority of the wealth and are better educated and better living, it soon changed into riots and attack. Most of the Igbo people were forced to leave Lagos and other northern part of the country and were forced back to Southern Nigeria.

Igbo community soon started re-grouping under the erstwhile army commanders and soon the civil war is started. Now under the name of Biafra, Igbo and other minor communities has declared independence and the struggle to establish a country with political and economical self - sufficiency. The bloody war and the loss of human life continued until 1970 by which the Nigerian Army with the help of external forces were able to take control of the most of the region. So much from the history.
The story is about the people and their struggle during the troublesome period. Adichie, brings out a beautiful narration, without getting into the sentimental terrain, to show the story of the Biafran people. Until the last days, they were under the hope and promise of victory. Their will power to endure all the sufferings for the cause of a better tomorrow, never ends.
This story is also about Odenigbo, who as an intellectual gives out all from his capacity for the cause of Biafra. It is also about Ugwu, the house boy at Odenigbo, who comes from a poor family, learning his way by listening to the intellectual debates at his master's house with the book he read from his master. It is also about Richards, his admiration for Kainene , makes him to abandon his interest in ancient art of Igbo paintings and move in with her. He also uses his ability to write and uses his British Nationality to send articles about the struggle of Biafra to the European public.
Through the life of Olanna, this novel shows us the depreciating quality of human life in Biafra. Having moved to Nsukka to be with Odenigbo, to the displeasure of her parents and leaving the rich and lavish life of the wealthy family, she was set to experience a new life. From the decent house of the professor, the War had made them to vacate the place with only a pair of dress in hand, to Odenigbo's home town. The spread of war and approaching Nigerian Army made them fled again to a still smaller place , before ending in a smallest, filthy one room attic with the lowest possible living conditions. The families are under stress, Odenigbo gets into despair and drinking as a result. Igwu has been captured by the Biafran Army for fighting against the Nigerians. While all these happens, Olanna continue to support the cause of Biafra, by her means, Kainene chip in to run the relief supply until her disappearance.

Certain chapters end with a kind of footnotes which I guess is from the book being written but Ugwu under the name of The World was silent when we died. This I found was unnecessary and was out of place in most cases.

This book has already won lot of acclaim and literary awards and is heralded as the new era in literature. Is the literary scene is moving away from Latin America towards Africa ? There are definite indication ....
Half of a Yellow Sun
Author : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published by Harper Perenniel
433 Pages
Rs 295

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