Author sets a political tone at what is expected to be a very political Frankfurt Book Fair
In her remarks at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair opening press conference, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke forcefully of the need for more diverse voices in literature, and for more "boldness" in storytelling in what she said were "darkening" political times.
"Art can illuminate politics," Adichie told a standing room only audience of journalists in the new Frankfurt Pavilion. "It is important to have a wide diversity of voices not because we want to be politically correct, but because we want to be accurate. We cannot understand the world if we continue to pretend that a small fraction of the world is representative of the whole world."
Adichie's award-winning novels - Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah - have established her as a major literary talent. But she is also well-known for her feminism and political activism, including her popular TED Talks "We Should All Be Feminists" and "The Dangers of a Single Story". And she wasted no time in setting a political tone at what is expected to be a very political Frankfurt Book Fair.
In her 20-minute keynote, Adichie acknowledged the world was shifting - and called out the US, "the most powerful nation on earth", for today giving the appearance of "a feudal court", full of intrigue and hubris. "We must know what is true. We must say what is true. And we must call a lie a lie," she said. And while she stressed the need for political stories that "looked the world in the face", she called for more stories that are not "overtly political" but inform our politics nonetheless.
"It is not enough to know about how refugees suffer, or how they may not fit into a new society. We must also know about what hurts their pride. What they aspire to. And who arms the wars that made them refugees in the first place," Adichie said.
"This is the time to proclaim that economic superiority does not mean moral superiority. This is the time to parse the subject of immigration, to be honest about it. To ask whether the question is about immigration, or about the immigration of specific kinds of people - black people, Muslims, brown people. This is a time for boldness in storytelling. A time for new storytellers."
Photo: Adichie with Heinrich Riethmüller (left), chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, and Frankfurt director Juergen Boos