An excerpt from Chimmy’s recent interview
AB: I would love to ask you about the Caine Prize. I find it interesting that so many Nigerians are on the shortlist this year - That its four Nigerians out of five
Chimmy: Umm, why is that a problem? Watch it
AB: Well, none of them are you!
Chimmy: Elnathan was one of my boys in my workshop. But what’s all this over-privileging of the Caine prize anyway?? I don’t want to talk about the Caine Prize really. I suppose it’s a good thing, but for me, its not he arbiter of the best fiction in Africa. It’s never been. I know that Chinelo is on the short list too. But I haven’t read the stories – I’m just not very interested. I don’t go to the Caine Prize to look for the best in African fiction.
AB: where do you go?
Chimmy: I go to my mailbox where my workshop people send me their stories. I could give you a list of ten – mostly in Nigeria – writers who I think are very good. They’re not on the Caine prize short list.
Elnathan John: *sigh* I agree. The best Nigerian writing is in Queen Adichie’s mailbox. What a treasure chest.
And of course this sparked off commentaries on Adichie in response to Elnathan John’s status update which ranged from ‘she’s jealous to conceit to too much pride to she’s bitter cause of the failure of Americanah”(raised eyebrows).
You know as best friend Chimmy can do no wrong in my eyes mostly, but this time, I will that I have reservations..
Elnathan has not shown much love for Chimmy judging from his commentaries during the Americanah controversy which indirectly referred to 'her arrogance' etc. So I can appreciate his acute displeasure at her *my boys* reference. Chimmy love, how can you call oke okpa di ka Elnathan ‘nwata nwoke’
Mba nu. I choro okwu nwanne m***.
Update*** On second thoughts, after reading this recent post from Elnathan clarifying their prior personal relationship maybe I can understand why. In the wake of the natural hair/Americanah discussions, Elnathan made scathing posts about Chimmy, someone I now find he has/had a personal relationship with. Not cool. Yes, friends can have a difference of opinion but Elnathan allowed his fans make hurtful personal remarks about Chimmy on his Fb page. To be honest my perception was that he did not care for her or her writing. And now he wants her to give him privileged treatment? Shrug. Source for the goose…..
“What’s all this over-privileging of the Caine prize anyway?”
It is an interesting commentary for one who rose to fame on the wings of a literary prize. She of all people should know the value of any award. Yes she congratulated the winners but by making those scathing remarks about the perceived talent of the prize winners compared to those in her mail box, she literally showed that her congratulations were not worth the paper they were printed on.
I’m not challenging the excellence of these writers she knows, but it was an insensitive speech to make at this point in time. With awards still fresh, this is the time to give credit to whom it is due: To congratulate winners and encourage greater participation: To make relevant critiques about the way the award is run if it marginalizes certain writers or nations or encourages certain stories from Africa (read her article here).
The alleged excellent writers in your mailbox did not send in their stories for the competition by dint of opportunity, time or maybe through some unmet criteria submitted but were not shortlisted. But these winners did. Again, it might just be ladyluck, opportunity, or just pure hardwork but that shouldn’t stop me from appreciating the feat of winners who knocked down hundreds if not thousands of others in a competition. It is only right that they be unreservedly congratulated. And in a future interview, or in an opinion piece, talk about ‘your mailbox of yet to be discovered writers’.
On a positive bit, about having a treasure trove of good writers in her mailbox…She is not wrong you know. My easiest comparisons are beauty contests. Is Miss Nigeria/Miss Universe/Miss World the most beautiful woman in the world? No. Can I similarly boast, that I have a bevy of beauties in my corner street in Gbagada who can give the winners a run from their crowns? Yes and I probably wouldn’t be wrong.
But like I have said. Wrong time. Wrong fight.
Bestie, your recent interviews have spiked a lot of controversy which though important (it is always good to shake up ideas) do not reflect well on you. There’s no gain in making statements that stand to be misconstrued then you now have to give a 2nd interview to correct wrong first perceptions.
The Nigerian audience is a tough one - they have large egos and tend to take things at surface value – but they are your biggest support Adanne.
Be the mistress of your words and get it right the first time so I won’t have to be doing unpaid PR work :).
On a last note, you can call me one of your girls anytime :)