Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Interview*

You are here at the festival as an author?
Yes, I have written two books the first was “Purple Hibiscus” and the second is “Half of a yellow sun”.

So, you are promoting your second novel?
Yes, it’s in fact the first time I actually seeing the book it has just come out literally and it’s very exciting. I was really moved when I saw it because it’s been 4 years of research and writing. To finally see the book, [that] it’s a real book; it was very moving for me.

Could you tell me a little bit about the book?
Its set in 1960’s in Nigeria about a number of characters who are changed by the Nigerian Biafra war. The primary characters are a houseboy, an English man and a Nigerian woman who is a university lecturer. We follow them from before the war when everybody is sort of hope filled. Through the war when things start to change until after the war when they are dealing with just so much when their lives have changed.

Could you give our listeners a brief synopsis of what the Biafra war was about?
In the simplest of terms Biafra was about a region of Nigeria that had seceded for a number of reasons and the rest of Nigeria being willing to let that region secede. Really for the reason that it didn’t make economic sense oil is in South Eastern Nigeria if the south-eastern region had secede Nigeria would have lost its major source of revenue and so the war Happened. But before that a lot of things had happened, Nigeria had become independent in 1960 and just really right from the beginning things didn’t go very well and I think the root of this is colonialism. Nigeria was set up to fail and so it failed the war happened and people died.

Going back to you first novel “Purple hibiscus” could you me a little bit about the book?
It’s about a family in Nigeria, told from the point of view of a 15-year-old girl. It’s my way of exploring heavy issues like politics, domestic violence, and religion but I wanted to do it with a light touch and in some ways I wanted to also celebrate the town where I grew up.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, I have been writing since I could spell and I never thought about it because I just write because I have to write.

Is this your first time in Edinburgh?
Yes and I want to visit the castle.

Tell me about your hometown?
I am from south-eastern Nigeria I grew up in a University town called Nsukka, which is sort of sleepy and dusty and lovely and safe. My parents worked at the university and everybody knew everybody else. I went to secondary and primary schools there and then on to the US for University and I’ve been in both places since and so really for me home is both Nsukka and Abba, which is my ancestral hometown, where my family goes back generations. I happen to be fortunate enough to have a wonderful family that is close-knit and supportive and sort of wonderfully crazy when they need to be and that’s useful, I really feel very grateful for the childhood I had. I think I was very fortunate I am not one of those writers who had a messed up childhood and so because of that I have an affection for my hometown and I feel very nostalgic now because things have changed horribly and the university for example is falling apart and that sort of thing and I like to write about places I love.

Your success is that changing your view of the world and home? Has it influenced your writing?
I don’t think so I have been to a few places, I guess because of my writing but it hasn’t changed anything about my sense of home or my sense of what matters. Besides I think success is relative, I am still hoping to be successful.

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*Interview conducted  at the 2006 Edinburgh International Book Festival, (5/5).