Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

2 books, from 2 continents. both are dealing with war, and the hardship it brings on so many levels, the way it disrupts families, regions, futures. the approach of both books: history, seen through personal lives. another parallel: both books are written based on oral memory:

Half of a Yellow Sun
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie dedicated her book to the memories of her grandparents, who lived in the times when Nigeria was a country blighted by civil war - a war where starvation was used as tactical method, to prevent a constant separation of a Nigerian region that stepped into independence for some painful years: Biafra.

the book, i came across it through a reading suggestion by blogger Mary Shorun, who is from Nigeria, currently lives in the States, and who joined the language/place carnival #2 with an entry about the transition and familiarity between cultures. reading on, i arrived at her post titled "Book Idea.... Really Random", which starts with those lines:

"The fact that our Nigeria is a history-rich country need not be overemphasized; its elements can be clearly observed. Wide-known also is the certainty of a downfall in the absence of reconciliation with history. Our history forms the bedrock of our past, determines our present, and shapes our future..."

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writing opens this history for the reader, through different persons - male and female, child and adult, servant and master - their intersecting life stories drew me in and transported me so deep into this different time and place that i couldn't stop reading and at the same time, didn't want the story to end. it also made me go and read the wiki entries on Nigeria and Biafra, where i learned that Nigeria is the country with most populatian in Africa, and #8 of population in the world. and that the international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières ("Doctors Without Borders") came out of the suffering in Biafra.

it's a special book, intense, moving under ones skin, probably like the memories of her grandparents kept moving under the author's skin. the ending sentence of the author's note could also be the preface for the whole novel: "May we always remember."

PS: Part 2 / and a reflection
as this post grew longer than planned, it's now coming in two parts, the second is online here: currently reading: "Atemschaukel" / "Everything I Possess I Carry with Me" by Herta Müller (Nobel Prize 2009)

wondering why the posts grew so long, i realized that i am still processing both books, and writing about it, including reading / copying related notes is part of the process.
it also made me think about the destructive nature of totalitarian systems, the way they disrupt persons and structures on such a deep and longlasting level. there probably will be parallels in the Middle East states, when gradually the truth is revealed of how many people were spied on, imprisoned and tortured – and who was involved in the single cases.

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