Saturday, August 13, 2011

New Nigerian writers are in need of spirit

Here is a provocative essay by one of the very few Nigerian intellectual gadflies, Obi Nwakanma. He takes Nigerian writing to task.

"...the trouble with my own age of writers. We have no story; no drama, simply because we have lived in diapers all our lives, secluded from the messier details of real power; sheltered by the romantic view that writers are isolate figures, shielded from the rest of society by their moral sensibilities."

See the rest of the essay below, but here is my take on the piece.
Nwakanma's goal is to rouse his generation of writers from their creative slumber. I love that project. In fact,the more Nwakanmas and Ikhides we have, the better for Nigerian writing. Anyway, for a better judgment, I trim Nwakanma's arguments to their basic logical form.

Thesis: modern Nigerian literature is a joke.
Support: The current crop of writers are apolitical.
Conclusion: Their products are therefore anemic.

Actually, given his very first sentence, "Writing is an intensely political act," I think that he is basically correct. If you don't believe that writing is political then his essay crumbles. One might tell him that being political is just one of the many aspects of literature. In this regard, if the Achebe and Soyinka generation chose to be political and therefore made their marks in the literary world, the third generation of Nigerian writers could choose to be apolitical; they could be existential, or purely ethical and still make their mark on the world literary map.

The good thing in his essay, though, is that he challenges writers and critics, including himself, to dig deeper and explore the Nigerian human condition. I have lately read a number of young Nigerian writers. There is a lot to discover in their works. They are just waiting for clever, profound critics.


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