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Dear Ms. Paper: I recently graduated from University of Lagos with a first-class degree in History. I completed my National Youth Service two months ago and landed a sweet consulting job right after. Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, my boyfriend proposed to me. I was in pure heaven until it came out in a casual conversation that Deji, who has lived all his life in Nigeria and is not illiterate, does not know who Achebe is. I reacted strongly, telling him it was, to put it mildly, bizarre that he’d never heard of Achebe. He said I was being an unreasonable snob, that he was a lab technician and not a literature professor. I’m half ashamed to say that I’ve been giving him the silent treatment for the past two days. I’m actually surprised that it bothers me this much. Am I totally crazy to feel this way? Would it be completely insane if I considered breaking up with him? 

This is the moment where, for the sake of not breaking up a happy home, I’m supposed to tell you to be understanding. If you think there are gaps in his education, don’t panic. Stuff him full of information. I’m also supposed to tell you that it’s normal to be disappointed when you find out that your significant other is not the dazzling genius you imagined him to be.

But seeing I’m not your best friend, I’m under no obligation to lie to you. So, my dear, here is the truth.

The only grounds on which it is justifiable for a schooled Nigerian man not to know of Achebe is if he’s an alien from another planet. So unless you know for sure that Deji hails from planet Jupiter or some place like that, he’s a write-off.

What else has he not heard of? Bruce Lee, Moon landing, Mt Kilimanjaro? You should be thanking your stars that he revealed himself during a private conversation. What if he he’d showed his hand in respectable company? How would you have handled such a colossal embarrassment?

Look, except Deji has lived his entire life in my father’s village tucked away in an obscure part of Edo state where there’s still neither electricity nor mobile phones nor NIPOST and where girls go about half naked like they did in 19th century Umuofia, there is no excuse for not knowing who Chinua Achebe is.

You’re not being snobbish for asking that a grown man who claims to be educated know his A-B-Cs.

So I say run!

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#DearMsPaper is a fictional agony-aunt series that parodies readers, critics, and writers in the African literary scene.  

Previously on #DearMsPaper

Dear Ms. Paper: Save Me From This Boring African Novel

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

10 Responses to “Dear Ms. Paper: Can I Dump Him For Not Knowing Who Achebe Is?” Subscribe

  1. Catherine Onyemelukwe 2014/09/12 at 08:44 #

    I loved this! Your post gave me a wonderfully refreshing morning laugh. You’re right on. (But check your spelling of write-off!)

  2. henry 2014/09/12 at 13:45 #

    sack him

  3. P 2014/09/12 at 15:14 #

    Hahahaha!

  4. Fisayo 2014/09/12 at 16:01 #

    Yes I Agree with your reply Ainehi.
    That you know who Chinua Achebe is, is akin to
    questioning your sense of social and educational alertness.
    That said, the babe in question, her first class in history not withstanding, I can bet that she doesn’t know half of the entire history of West Africa.
    Except, of she can clear my doubts anyway.
    I won’t say she should sack him, I’d rather have her buy him all the books of Chinua Achebe and start a long process of necessary lecture.
    As for the Guy in question, he deserves to be flogged publicly. There is no excuse for not knowing somebody as legendary and famous as the great bard.
    Google is your friend na

  5. Manny 2014/09/12 at 17:57 #

    Perhaps the dude was joking? Wasn’t Things Fall Apart compulsory reading for JSSCE back in the 80s and 90s? My copy has my name, my school and JSS3 written on it so it must have been bought for JSSCE. How old is the dude, that might explain things a bit.
    I wouldn’t dump him just for that but to begin with, I doubt I would be in a relationship with someone who does not know Chinua Achebe.

  6. Yangie 2014/09/13 at 05:41 #

    not anyone can know any person… We have different worlds we live in

  7. Hope Nwosur 2014/09/13 at 05:48 #

    Quite a hilarious parody for all the ‘educated illiterates and half-baked graduates from Nigerian universities.

  8. Mikkel Bull 2014/09/14 at 05:07 #

    That’s a deal breaker. Poor chap, however in the end he will also benefit from finding another partner.

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  1. Dear Ms. Paper: Help! I’m In Love with an African Novelist | Brittle Paper - 2015/01/18

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  2. Dear Ms. Paper: I Want to Kill My (Tribalist) Editor! | Brittle Paper - 2015/02/25

    […] Dear Ms. Paper: Can I Dump Him For Not Knowing Who Achebe Is? […]

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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