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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun Changed Me More than any Other Novel”

Claire Armitstead, books editor of The Guardian, has written a piece about how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun changed her “more than any other [book] I have read”.

Armitstead was born just as Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom, in 1960, and grew up in the north of the country during the time of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, which took place mainly in the south-east.

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Armitstead says she had “looked in vain for my story in fiction”, but found little relevant to her in most Nigerian novels and histories of Nigeria. She says “it took Adichie’s novel to shock me into a truer and profoundly different understanding of the conflict – and, by extension, my own identity”.

Read the piece:

The title of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning novel comes from the flag of Biafra, embodying the breakaway state’s hopes during the brief three years of its existence in the Nigerian civil war. As one of her central characters, Olanna, explains to a group of schoolchildren: “Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the north, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future.”

For me, growing up in the north of Nigeria, the symbolism seemed very different: it showed one half of a wilfully bisected country, and I was living in the half that the insurrection had rendered invisible. The shocking revelation of this extraordinary novel was the extent to which invisibility was indeed the issue, but not in the way that I had believed.

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