“Are there bookshops in Nigeria?” The question posed by a French journalist last week incensed acclaimed Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
At an event held in a ritzy Paris government building under crystal chandeliers, Adichie launched a blistering assault on perceived French arrogance.
“I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question,” said Adichie.
“My books are read in Nigeria. They are studied in schools. Not just Nigeria, across the continent in Africa.”
The subsequent outrage on social media was perhaps predictable: insults hurled at the French journalist amid accusations of racism and colonial prejudices.
Adichie wasn’t done yet.
The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was born in Nigeria but now lives in the United States, followed up with a Facebook post the next day arguing that the bookstore question was “giving legitimacy to a deliberate, entitled, tiresome, sweeping base ignorance about Africa”.
But not everyone wholeheartedly agrees.
“You can’t say there aren’t any bookstores or libraries in Nigeria, that’s ridiculous,” Tabia Princewill, a columnist at local newspaper The Vanguard, told AFP.
“But they aren’t pretty, and they are often religious books or educational books. In public libraries, there are almost no books,” Princewill said.
“It’s shameful and it is not being anti-Africa to admit it. “The African elite don’t want to face the reality.”
This did not go down well with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because Westerners are fond of stigmatizing African countries including Nigeria.