Nigerian writers had their feathers ruffled by what the acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in a July 14 interview with Aaron Bady whose twitter handle is @zunguzungu. The literary kas kas has produced a series of archly comical tweets, blogposts and ripostes that inspire awe in latent Nigerian literary talent. Here’s the offending snippet from the IV.
AB: I would love to ask you about the Caine Prize. I find it interesting that so many Nigerians are on the short list this year—that it’s four Nigerians out of five . . .
CA: Umm, why is that a problem? Watch it.
AB: Well, none of them are you!
CA: Elnathan was one of my boys in my workshop. But what’s all this over-privileging of the Caine Prize, anyway? I don’t want to talk about the Caine Prize, really. I suppose it’s a good thing, but for me it’s not the arbiter of the best fiction in Africa. It’s never been. I know that Chinelo is on the short list, too. But I haven’t even read the stories—I’m just not very interested. I don’t go the Caine Prize to look for the best in African fiction.
AB: Where do you go?
CA: I go to my mailbox, where my workshop people send me their stories. I could give you a list of ten—mostly in Nigeria—writers who I think are very good. They’re not on the Caine Prize short list.
And in case you don’t know, Aaron Bady is a very influential blogger, tweeter and scholar of African literature. Here’s a bit about him from an Atlantic Monthly article some time back:
“When historians look back at WikiLeaks and how the world’s pundits tried to make sense of what was happening, they’ll see a familiar list of sources: Foreign Policy’s Evgeny Morozov, The Guardian’s John Noughton, The New York Times’ David Carr, several people from the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, and various long-time digital leaders like Geert Lovink and Larry Sanger.
“But among that list you’d also find Aaron Bady and his blog zunguzungu.wordpress.com. His probing analysis of Julian Assange’s personal philosophy and possible motivations became an oft-cited piece of the global conversation about what WikiLeaks might mean. Before Bady’s November 29 post, Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”, only a few hundred people a day found their way Bady’s blog. In the days afterward, tens of thousands of people swarmed to the site — and Bady ended up linked by some of the most influential media outlets on the planet.”
The first response came from Elnathan John, shortlisted for the Caine Prize, and referred to by Adichie as “…one of my boys…” In a tongue-in-cheek yet hard-hitting blogpost called THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVING NGOZI he gently takes her on.
It is the Americans you blame as you struggle to craft a response to Ngozi that sounds neither bitter nor desperate; ‘something funny’ your friend said, so people would be left with no doubt about your maturity and sense of humour. You blame the Americans for organizing that workshop and putting you on the guest list where you first met Ngozi. This is what the Americans have often been guilty of: causing wars through third parties and standing back, claiming ignorance of roots and beginnings. They made you meet Ngozi. They made you love Ngozi.
His blog bio gives a more elaborate sense of the budding writer:
You wan know who I be?
- Elnathan John
- Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria
- Elnathan is a writer who trained as a lawyer. Although he is routinely called a journalist, he rejects this title, preferring instead to be called a writer. His works have appeared in ZAM Magazine International, Otis Nebula, Per Contra, and Evergreen Review in addition to numerous Nigerian publications and newspapers. He writes a column for Sunday Trust. He has not won anything. The South African government recently truncated his plans to attend the prestigious Caine Prize Writing workshop to which he was invited. He holds no grudges. In 2008 he hastily self-published an embarrassing collection of short stories which has since gone out of print. He hopes to never repeat that mistake. He has just completed work on a new collection of short stories and is working on a novel. Nobody seems to want to publish his new collection of short stories. This puzzles him. He really loves those stories. Elnathan is touchy about his skin and man boobs and isn’t bold enough to grow hair. One of his new goals is getting to a weight below his current 100kg that will not warrant totally changing his wardrobe. He hopes to start a family comprising a partner, no kids and two hairy pets
For more go to my Storify…
One thought on “Of Adichie, Coco Yams, the Caine Prize and Literary Tiffs…”