Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had to put a French journalist in her place Thursday after the acclaimed author was asked whether there were bookstores in Nigeria.
The Americanah author was being interviewed by journalist Caroline Broué as part of France’s annual "Night of Ideas" when she was asked, via a translator, whether Nigerians read her books.
“They do shockingly,” Adichie responded in her well-known sardonic humor.
To which Broué asked, “Are there bookstores in Nigeria?”
When the audience breathed an audible shock at her question, Broué further explained that most French people knew little about Nigeria: “You were talking about single stories, now when you talk about Nigeria, in France, unfortunately, there is not much said about Nigeria. But when people talk about Nigeria it’s about Boko Haram, it’s about violence, it’s about security.
Broué continued: “I should like you to tell us something about Nigeria which is different, talk about it differently, and that’s why I am saying, ‘are there bookshops?’ Of course, I imagine there are.”
Adichie did not skip a beat in her response: “I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question. Because I think surely it’s 2018, you know, I mean c’mon. My books are read in Nigeria. They are studied in schools, actually not just Nigeria, across the continent of Africa.”
Adichie later took to Facebook to clarify that Broué was being sarcastic and “impersonating the ignorant” in asking the question, but the author still stood by her response:
“Bookshops are in decline all over the world. And that is worth discussing and mourning and hopefully changing. But the question ‘are there bookshops in Nigeria’ was not about that,” she wrote. “It was about giving legitimacy to a deliberate, entitled, tiresome, sweeping, base ignorance about Africa. And I do not have the patience for that.”
She added: “Perhaps French people cannot indeed conceive of Nigeria as a place that might have bookshops. And this, in 2018, in our age of interconnectedness and the Internet, is a shame.”