Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Image source: The Baltimore Sun.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new short story in Harper’s Bazaar, a brief one titled “How Did You Feel About It?,” is all about love, class and multiculturalism. The female narrator is Nigerian, her husband is English, and the rest of the characters are American, Japanese and Italian. The narrator ponders the nature of her relationship with her husband and they are both startled to run into another observant couple.

Read below.

In the quiet carriage we sat angled away from each other. We always rode the quiet carriage, but today it felt like a gift: a reason not to talk. Jonathan in his maroon sweater cradling his iPad. The sunlight weak, the morning uncertain. I was staring at the magazine in my hand, deeply breathing in and out, a willed and deliberate breathing, aware of itself. Breathe – such an easy target for scorn, so often summoned as panacea for our modern ills. But it worked. It helped push away my sense of engulfing tedium, even if only for brief moments. How does this happen? How do you wake up one morning and begin to question your life?

Jonathan shifted on his seat. I kept my eyes on the magazine, to discourage any whispered conversation.

“Something has been on your mind,” he told me that morning as he buttered a piece of toast. I kept silent, slowly spooning muesli into my mouth, and he said nothing more. Why hadn’t he asked me a question? Why hadn’t he asked “What is on your mind?” A question was braver than a statement. A question forced a reckoning. But Jonathan avoided direct questions because they had in them an element of confrontation. His dislike of confrontation I had once found endearing. It made him a person who thrived on peace, and so a life with him would be a kind of seamless happiness.

When he did ask questions, they seemed always to seek reassurance rather than information. His first question to me, shortly after we met years ago, was about servants. I had mentioned the drivers and househelps of my Lagos childhood, and his question followed: How did you feel about it all? Because servants were foreign to him, a relationship with them had become a matter of morality. He told me that when he first could afford weekly Polish cleaners for his London flat, he had hidden in the spare room while they cleaned, so ashamed was he of paying somebody to scrub his toilet.

For Jonathan to ask “How did you feel about it all?” was not really about how I felt, but about a moral code I was supposed to follow. I was to say: “I felt terrible. I worried about their welfare.” But the truth was I felt nothing because it was the life I knew. Had he asked me “What is on your mind?” that morning and had I said “I am wondering if this is the life I want, and what I have missed out on in the years we’ve been together,” he would have no answer for me. Because I was not supposed to think such things. It was unfair to do so. Wrong. That we sometimes think what we are not supposed to, and feel what we wish we did not, was something Jonathan was unable to grasp.

Read the full story HERE.

Tags: , , , , ,

Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Bazaar Short Story Is All Love, Class and Multiculturalism” Subscribe

  1. Mwinji 2017/08/18 at 08:49 #

    This was such a different piece. I’ve really never read something so emotionally present and current from Adichie.Usually theres a sense of nostalgia,like the stories are memories, and or usually based on or building off a past political event. Here you can completely hear the writer’s ‘voice’ in the right now and it seems less nostalgic and romantic and more dissilusioned. Like this is what love and marriage are supposed to be but this is what they really are, these are expectations and these are desires,this is the colorful perfume advert sort of version of what it is to be wealthy (the strangers on the train) and this is the grey, saltless reality of what it is to have but not be able to express or feel like you can express and fufill your innermost desires-its essentially this tension between what is expected of you especially as a woman and what is experienced, this tension between reason(conforming to the status quo) and passion.It seems in this story though that no matter what you choose its just different sides of the same coin, and in this sense there is this feeling of being trapped as a woman no matter how content you may be or convince yourself you are as the narrator seems to do by the end of the story.I cant wait to read her next novel, maybe shell give us some closure, an answer even if its messy, on how to escape this conundrum.Loved this,so much growth<3

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology | Read e-Book Exploring Millennial Sex Culture and Romance in African Cities

erotic-africa

Much has been said about the state of sex in African literature: whether African novelists are keen on sex, why […]

Zimbabwean Mapping Project Documents the Movements of Dambudzo Marechera in Harare

dambudzo marechera - graph

An unusual mapping project has documented the movements of Dambudzo Marechera in Harare. “Home Means Nothing to Me,” published in […]

Cyprian Ekwensi’s The Passport of Mallam Ilia Gets Animation Movie | Watch Teaser

The Passport of Mallam Ilia - animation

Cyprian Ekwensi’s popular novel The Passport of Mallam Ilia is being made into an animated movie. Premium Times reports that the 2D […]

Yrsa Daley-Ward’s The Terrible Makes Vogue’s Must-Read Books of 2018

yrsa daley-ward - image by Laurel Grolio for Girls At Library

Nigerian-Jamaican model-turned-Instapoet Yrsa Daley-Ward’s memoir The Terrible: A Storyteller’s Memoir has been named among Vogue magazine’s Must-Read Books of 2018. The follow […]

Film Adaptation of Soyinka’s Ake: The Years of Childhood, by Dapo Adeniyi, Tells the Story of the Legend as a Child in the 1940s | Watch Trailer 

Egba women wait on Mrs Kuti at the outset of the women’s riot3

The film adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s 1981 memoir Ake: The Years of Childhood is now available on Amazon. Set during the World […]

Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology Forthcoming in December

erotic-africa

Twelve months after the call for submissions was made in January, we are happy to announce that Erotic Africa: The Sex […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.