By Ahmad Ghashmari

221pp. Heinemann. $12. ISBN: 0-435-90026-9. 1966

Flora Nwapa is the first Nigerian female novelist to be published. Her first novel, Efuru, was published by Heinemann in London in 1966. Although it came out to be a well written book with a profound message, the novel did not receive the attention it deserves; unlike novels written at that time by African male writers like Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who both were also published by Heinemann. Efuru is a portrayal of life in the Igbo culture, especially women's life. Set in the village of Oguta, where Nwapa herself lived, the novel tells the story of an independent-minded woman named Efuru. She is a woman who becomes a role model and a catalyst for change in her own society. Despite her success, brightness and wealth, she is unable to have a lasting marriage or give birth to children like other women in her village. She marries twice, but both marriages failed. She gives birth to one daughter who died. But even though, Efuru remains firm and strong, maintaining very successful and prosperous business and standing as a perfect example of generosity, intelligence, and care among her peers.

By Biko Agozino, Ph.D.

I enjoyed reading the interview of Elechi Amadi by James Eze in The Sun in October 2004. I wish to thank Amadi for sharing the open secret of his success as a writer: you need to read hundreds, and he repeated, hundreds of novels before you can master that art form and venture to become a successful novelist. I hope that this simple lesson will be encouraged in many more high schools by requiring students to read for pleasure beyond their textbooks.

By Nnorom Azuonye

In the past month or so I have noted several references to Adichie’s ‘The Danger of a Single Story’. I have received e-mails from admirers of the Orange Prize for Women’s Writing winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pointing me to a video of the Nigerian writer talking about her riveting ‘new’ idea. Facebook friends have posted the video on my wall. Others have twitted it, and some have referenced it in responding to book reviews elsewhere. One e-mailer suggested that I MUST get in touch with Chimamanda Adichie to get the text of her presentation and publish it in Sentinel Literary Quarterly because, in his opinion, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ was “so illuminating that it would change the West’s view of Africa forever.” Intrigued, I dropped everything I was doing and went over to to see the video for myself.

"What can one say of this political cowardice? We expect our leaders to lead, and lead with moral courage. When they fail to do so they leave all of us morally impoverished. Where they funk the difficult issues they make themselves irrelevant. Why should we listen to the mighty when the mighty are deaf to the cries of the afflicted? Millions of Africans and Europeans would expect Zimbabwe and Darfur to be at the very top of the agenda. It is not too late.

And it was not just the ownership of the story that was revolutionary - the language was too. Achebe's novels are part standard English, part pidgin, part language of folklore and proverb. His writing crackles with vivid, universal and yet deeply African images. "Living fire begets cold, impotent ash"; "If you want to get at the root of murder ... look for the blacksmith who made the matchet". "Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly," he writes in Things Fall Apart, "and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten."

There are clear allusions to the onset of the slave trade, but the tale's origins lie, Okri says, in the myth of an ancestor who is captured or disappears, which he likens to the Pied Piper of European lore. "There's a lot about the past that we can't know except by stories," he says. "If these are not passed on, how can we understand who we are, and what we can become?" For him, the book is a mythic attempt to reconfigure a disrupted past, not least through its art. "It is not loss that defines us, but recovery. One has to read the clues of what seems to be lost, in art, artefacts, intuitions, dreams. The artist is a conduit through which lost things are recovered." While on the most obvious level his subject is Africa, its resonance is larger, he insists. "Loss is an inextricable part of what it is to be human."

On Wednesday her epic novel about the Biafra war won Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the Orange prize. In her first interview since, she tells Stephen Moss that she wants to show how the west doesn't get Africa. Americans think African writers will write about the exotic, about wildlife, poverty, maybe Aids. They come to Africa and African books with certain expectations. I was told by a professor at Johns Hopkins University that he didn't believe my first book [Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003] because it was too familiar to him. In other words, I was writing about middle-class Africans who had cars and who weren't starving to death, and therefore to him it wasn't authentically African.

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