Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks to Ted Hodgkinson (Sunday 1 June 2014, 11.30am)
On the Saturday that I took my family to the Lagos premiere of the film adaptation of my novel “Half of a Yellow Sun”, I watched my parents and tried to hide my anxiety. I wondered what they would make of it, but my worry went beyond the film. It was similar, in its sense of unformed discomfort, to what I felt when I first showed my father the finished manuscript. I had wondered then if, after reading, he would think it worthwhile that he had spent so many long hours answering my questions about the Biafran war, lifting layers of his memory that had long lay untouched. I was relieved that he liked the novel. I was mildly amused, too, that he spoke of the accuracy of my small details – as though most had not come from him.
And now, with the film, I worried even more. Images, when compared to words, have a greater immediacy, almost an inherent vulgarity. I feared that my father’s experiences, first fictionalised in my novel and now translated into film, might seem to him a violation of sorts. The novel, I imagined, had at least left his memories intact; fiction gives the reader room to imagine characters for themselves.
Film is different. So powerful can images be that they challenge your memory of the real, and sometimes they overtake the real.