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Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

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Abstract 

Recently new novels about the Biafra war have appeared, proving the ongoing impact of the Nigerian civil war on writers’ interest, and the importance of memory in our life. For all these reasons, we decided to write the present thesis on how memory function in a literary work. The objective is to analyse the literary representation of the Biafra war, with a special focus on individual and collective memory production through two fictional novels: Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta.

In analysing the literary representations of Biafra in the light of memory studies, we have identified two levels of memory: literary characters’ memory and writers’ memory. Focusing on the level of the memory of the characters, we explored what the characters remember about the Biafra war both when the war is over and when it is still in progress, and what strategies they use to remember or to forget painful memories of the war.

What emerged through this first level of analysis is how Adichie and Okparanta have offered narratives focused not only on accounts of the war, but also on feelings and emotions. Moreover, the strategies of remembering and of forgetting represent tools of survival, and they are not in a relationship of exclusion.

Focusing on the level of writers’ memory, we explored the perspectives used by Adichie and Okparanta to narrate and remember the Biafra war: a perspective from below, focused on ordinary people and on their daily lives; a female perspective which represents a novelty in a literary landscape dominated by male writers; the danger of a single story and its risk to create hegemonic narratives; the fictional perspective as a way to enrich a historical event with suggestive details fruit of writers’ imagination; the Afropolitan perspective and the greater openness of mind of the new generation of African writers.

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Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Chapter One

1.1 Background to the Study

In the Nigerian literature, the Biafra war has been a fertile ground for the expression of many writers. The Nigerian civil war is said to have led to the birth of a new literary genre, exploited and investigated by many writers, both for fictional and non-fictional novels. Most of the books written on Biafra were produced during or shortly after the outbreak of the war, but recently new novels have appeared, proving the ongoing impact of the Biafra war on writers’ interest.

Some historical and socio-political coincidences can offer a first explanation for this interest. In 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the civil war. However, still today, many rumours hover over new secessionist demands, and young generations still dream of independence from Nigeria. The war caused more than a million casualties, but today there are new generations in the east who would like their part of the country to secede. In this perspective, the production of new novels about Biafra seems to address political and socio-cultural dynamics inserted in the present context of Nigeria.

This connection between past and present has triggered my thesis. The fact that contemporary writers have felt the need to narrate an event that happened 50 years ago is an indicator of the importance that memory has in our life. In fact, all societies have always activated strategies to recollect events belonging to the past, in order not to lose track of them and to affirm and reinvigorate their identity according to a present situation.

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Pierre Nora, one of the most prominent scholars in Memory Studies, has also stressed the importance of the present in recollecting the memory of the past, arguing that memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its name. It remains in permanent evolution, open to the dialectic of remembering and forgetting, unconscious of its successive deformations, vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation, susceptible to being long dormant and periodically revived (Nora, 1989: 8).

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This means that memory is a process that lives of the present and in the present, nourishing itself of the changes that occur in our societies. Astrid Erll also confirms the connection between the past and the present, pointing out how re-membering is an act of assembling available data that takes place in the present.

Versions of the past change with every recall, in accordance with the changed present situation. Individual and collective memories are never a mirror image of the past, but rather an expressive indication of the needs and interests of the person or group doing the remembering in the present (Erll, 2001: 8).

Literature is one way for investigating the production of memory. Erll and Rigney suggest that “acts of literary remembrance contribute in a very specific manner to the ongoing production and reproduction of cultural memory, as well as to our reflection on that memory” (Erll, Rigney, 2006: 113). For all these reasons, I decided to write this thesis on how memory and its levels and perspectives function in a literary work.

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

The objective of my thesis is to analyse the literary representation of the Biafra war, with a special focus on individual and collective “memory” production through two fictional novels: Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published for the first time in 2006 (Adichie, 2017), and Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta, published for the first time in 2015 (Okparanta, 2017).

In analysing the literary representations of Biafra in the light of memory studies, two levels of memory emerged: literary characters’ memory and writers’ memory. According to these two levels of memory, some research questions have oriented my work.

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Focusing on the level of characters’ memory:

-What do the characters remember about the Biafra war, both when the war is over, and when it is still in progress?

-What strategies do they use to remember, or to forget painful memories of the war?

-What do they want to communicate through these strategies? Focusing on the level of writers’ memory:

– What “perspectives”1 do Adichie and Okparanta use to tell and remember the Biafra war?

-What do they want to communicate to the reader through these perspectives?

In the process of answering these questions, I will bear in mind the words of Pierre Nora that underlines: “the task of remembering makes everyone their own historian” and “the demand for history has thus largely overflowed the circle of professional historians” (Nora, 1989: 15). Literature is not part of this “circle”, it does not constitute a properly historical tool for reconstructing a past event. However, its power to recollect and represent memory is undeniable.

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Cultural Memory of the Biafra War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Under The Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Mr. Harrison

Project Gurus is a subsidiary website owned by Harrilibrary Integrated Services which was registered under the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria that was established in 1990 vide Companies and Allied Matters Act no 1 1990 as amended, now on Act cap C20 Laws of Federation of Nigeria. Our aim and objective is to assist students all over the world on their educational research works. We are committed toward assisting students at all level of education in their academic work. We have a team of seasonal writers who are vested with the current knowledge in research work. For more information contact on via Email @[email protected] or WhatsApp us on +2348127963962

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