Wednesday, November 18, 2020 11:59 am
By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Let’s start from the end: I have died.
Yes, this daughter of Professor James Adichie has killed me. Call it a beautiful death and I will wake up from the cemetery and take a good beer!
And whilst I’m sipping my after-death beer, I can recall that nobody, not even the inimitable Pa James, named her Chimamanda.
She invented the name all by herself, and the name has taken wing: flying from Abba to Zanzibar, via America past Russia, beyond Antarctica and Greenland, to down under Australia by way of New Zealand, and up the winds of Milliken Hill above Mount Everest.
Before I run short of verbs, adverbs and proverbs, let me depose here that Chimamanda towers beyond towers as a daughter of the universe and the doyenne of world literature.
Her name is magic.
There is this friend of mine whose wife had gone into menopause about a decade or so ago, but my man is disturbing the old lady, insisting that they should “try again” in the bid to beget a female child that they would name Chimamanda, and thus wise conquer the world!
If you think I invented the story, let me confess here that I am not like Chimamanda nwa James who invents stories.
I have just heard with my kepu-kepu ears that one of the stories invented by Chimamanda called Half of a Yellow Sun has been voted the best book to have won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in its 25-year history.
A question has just popped up inside my medulla oblongata: How old is this Chimammanda that she can be declared the winner of winners in a prize that has lasted all of 25 years?
Since I am worse than useless in arithmetic, I will not do the needed addition and subtraction in order not to disgrace my old self.
It just suffices to learn that Chimamanda, who won the Orange Prize in 2007, was chosen in a public vote from a list of all 25 past winners that included such distinguished writers as Zadie Smith, the late Andrea Levy, Lionel Shriver, Rose Tremain and Maggie O’Farrell.
For you to understand my wonderment at the achievement, you need to know that one of the British novelists beaten by Chimamanda for the award, Rose Tremain, had published a novel, Sadler’s Birthday, in 1976 before nwa James was born in 1977!
Let’s drink a toast to the one-off award as Chimamanda received a silver edition of the prize’s annual statuette known as the Bessie.
It is little wonder then that James the Father calls her daughter “Omeifeukwu”, which translates to, “Doer of great things.”
The global voice of this day and age, Chimamanda bestrides literature and politics, whence her command the other time that Hillary Rodham Clinton must not put her role as “wife” over all her intimidating achievements.
Of course Mrs. Clinton promptly readjusted her Twitter handle in obedience to Chimamanda nwa James!
This way, Chimamanda is the real “she who must be obeyed”, not H. Rider Haggard’s malevolent invention!
It’s worth remembering that when Chimamanda burst out of the starting block with her first novel Purple Hibiscus in 2003, not a few cynics cited the cliché “flash in the pan”.
Then her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun in 2006 shook up the earth especially as the venerable Chinua Achebe put forward this immortal endorsement: “She is fearless, or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria’s civil war. Adichie came almost fully made.”
The Washington Post Book World dubbed Chimamanda as “the 21st century daughter of that other great Igbo novelist, Chinua Achebe.”
Now when the daughter of the genius statistician James Adichie goes double as the daughter of the genius novelist Chinua Achebe, what you see is what you get, as we do say in the hood.
Winning of esteemed literary prizes has become second nature for Chimamanda whose third novel Americanah, released in 2013, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in the United States.
A pillar of committed womanhood, she courageously echoes the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai: “The higher you go, the fewer women there are.”
Chimamanda nwa James takes no prisoners thusly: “The truth is that I have not kept my name because I am successful. Had I not had the good fortune to be published and widely read, I would still have kept my name. I have kept my name because it is my name. I have kept my name because I like my name.”
As I am looking for the right words to end this piece, what strikes me is this quote from Half of a Yellow Sun: “The World Was Silent When We Died.”
As per Chimamanda nwa James, there is no end, for as Ralph Ellison penned in Invisible Man, “The end was in the beginning and lies far ahead.”
-Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, poet and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos