by Lekan Olanrewaju
In a speech delivered Thursday at a Commonwealth Lecture in London, award-winning Nigerian writer, Ms Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about the importance of what she termed “realist literature”.
“The world of realist literature is not the same as the real world,” she said, addressing the 2012 Commonwealth theme of ‘Connecting Cultures’. “but it is close enough, aligned enough, to the real world to be able to illuminate it. And it is books of that sort that I would like to make a case for today.”
“Realistic fiction is not merely the recording of the real, as it were, it is more than that, it seeks to infuse the real with meaning. As events unfold, we do not always know what they mean. But in telling the story of what happened, meaning emerges and we are able to make connections with emotive significance.”
“When we read human stories, we become alive in bodies not our own. Literature is in many ways like faith: it is a leap of imagination. Both reading and writing require an imaginative leap and it is that imaginative leap that enables us to become alive in bodies not our own. It seems to me that we live in a world where it has become increasingly important to try and live in bodies not our own, to embrace empathy, to constantly be reminded that we share, with everybody in every part of the world, a common and equal humanity
She made a reference to the story of the Philosopher Diogenes the Cynic who carried a lantern in daylight, walking up and down the streets of Athens, looking for humanity. She said that, in this action he did not take the idea of humanity for granted and perhaps did not even presume he would find it
She also went on to clarify that she was not suggesting that we are all the same, saying: “Literature is indeed about how we are different, but also how, in those differences, we are similar.”
See the video below and the full text here