55 Nigerian Writers You should read (No. 5)
Elechi Amadi (1934): Writer and poet who brought to life the power of the supernatural and its influence on African culture. If it is indeed a writer’s job to record an epoch, then Amadi’s work is the supreme definitive guide for pre colonial societies southeast of the Niger. His stories are often the evocation of the peculiar sentimentality of the era and of the relationship between man and the supernatural, often of resistance from the former, and ultimately, its destruction by the later.
Elechi Amadi was born in Aluu, Rivers State, on May 12, 1934. He attended Federal Government College Umuahia before proceeding to the University of Ibadan where he obtained a degree in Physics and Mathematics. He worked briefly as a Land Surveyor and Teacher before publishing his first novel, The Concubine, in 1966.
He joined the Nigerian army before the civil war, staying long enough to be a captain. He wrote a semi-authobiographical account of the civil war, Sunset in Biafra, released in 1973. In his three famous books: The Concubine; The Great Pond and The Slave, myths and the supernatural are juxtaposed with the real and its impact on humans and the larger society are presented through the technique of magical realism. Religion and gods as vengeful entities are a recurring theme in his works, as is the mockery of a culture that deems machismo the height of its endeavors and enlightenment, even if ultimately, it destroys the same society.
Most criticism of Elechi Amadi is often based on the sometimes unapologetic and unmistakable anti feminine rhetorics that dot the pages of his works. But I believe in doing so, the critic is quick to upturn the role of a writer or of history. A writer records humanity through the prism of his own views, hopefully unaltered and without makeup. A great piece of work should be a representation of a people, or at best, what they aspire to be; never what they are not. A great book elicits response – demands discourse, and permeates opposing views.
If Amadi’s stories discriminates the African woman or even atimes dehumanizes her, it is because that is exactly how we treat our women, even in post colonial Nigeria. His work bears a timeless reminder of neo-colonialism as man tries to conquer his own people and lord over them, while the female, who by mere instance of her gender, is inherently conquered and her voice is barely heard above whispers.
Books: The Concubine (1966), Sunset in Biafra (1973), The Slave (1973), The Great Pond (1978), Enstrangement (1986),