Binyavanga Wainaina, British Crumpets and Literary Insularity

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa

My good friend, Chielozona Eze has uncharacteristically harsh words for the writer Binyavanga Wainaina who recently threw some of his world-renowned signature bombs into the dainty rooms of English literature. According to the UK Guardian, the prize-winning author Wainaina” has attacked the insularity of British authors, describing their work as “indigestible” for Kenyan readers, and suggesting that “you’d struggle to find any significant books that come out of Britain” about the African experience.” Read all about it here. In his blog, Eze responds with muscular fierceness:  “As one who owes his life to good luck and the empathic gestures from Europeans during the Biafran war, I find it somewhat disturbing that Wainaina, who was born circa a decade after the Biafran war, and far removed from the scenes of Biafran horrors, would make a sweeping condemnation of rescue/aid agencies such as Oxfam. In my case, in 1968/69, it was the Irish aid agency “Concern” that saved me and many other famishing, kwashiorkor Biafran kids. Without Concern, and perhaps, Oxfam, I would have perhaps succumbed to the famine that was orchestrated by fellow Nigerians/Africans. Why would any person in his right mind ever condemn Bob Geldorf for having responded to the human tragedy that took place in Ethiopia and Somalia? I am sincerely baffled.” I am still digesting Wainaina’s thoughts and trying to reflect on what it all means. Eze has certainly got the ball rolling. Never a dull moment. Enjoy the literary rumble in the e-jungle here.