‘Ingredients of a good literary work’ -Chimamanda Adichie reveals

IN this short interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, Chimamanda Adichie, who has been described as “the most prominent of a procession of critically acclaimed young Anglophone authors that is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature,” revealed the ingredients of a good literary work, and why she quit Medicine for Communication…

Why did you quit Medicine for Literature during your days at the university?

First, I didn’t study Literature.  I studied Communications and Political Science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA.  The issue is I have been writing sine I was six.  So, I have always been writing but because I did well in school, my parents felt I should go for Medicine.  You know the Nigerian mentality, when you do well in school, they would say you have to be a doctor.

That means you stopped Medicine not because you couldn’t cope?

I can show you my result (smiles).  I passed very well but the passion for writing is there.  I knew from the time I was six that I wanted to write.

What inspire your writing?

Everything!  For instance, my next book might be about a character called Rasheed, based on what I have seen and known about you.

How long did it take you to produce your first work?

I have four works now, Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck and my recently released work, Americana.  My first work took about a year and a half.  The second took about five years and I remember telling one of my family members that the book took me five years, he asked, what were you going to write there that took you so long (smiles)?  So, writing books actually takes a lot of time.

Can you tell us the basic ingredients of a good literary work?

Good language, good character development.  Basically, you get a sense that you’re not wasting your time when you’re reading a good literary work.

Let’s talk about the writer’s workshop, you’ve been producing writers in the last five years, what have you done to assist them?

One thing about writing is that you don’t wait for somebody to spoon-feed you.  We’ve been able to train the participants, it’s now left for them to make it happen on their own.  The problem is that many people have talented but they don’t really know how to go about writing or publishing a book.  After today, we’ve given them the tools to stand on their own.

What about the evaluation of the workshop?

I think it’s getting better and better every year.  We have so much talent every year and I’m very happy with the way the work has been going.

How do you think reading culture could be encouraged amongst Nigerians?

I think Nigerians read but the question is what they read.  After all, they read newspapers, management books even Christian books.  But I think the problem is that our educational system has devalued the importance of reading narratives.  Today, you hear people saying story books are not important, that’s what our education system has done and I think it’s a disaster because we need to make reading narrative a central point of our education system.


  • This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Related Stories:



About the Author