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Not Everybody Wants a ‘Voltron’! Man Booker Shortlistee Chigozie Obioma Gets Tetchy on Social Media

Atoke

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chigozie-obioma

We are used to celebrity feuds but how about some literary drama!

Yesterday, Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma was shortlisted (with 5 other authors from around the world) for the 2015 £50,000 Man Booker Prize.

When the author’s debut novel, The Fishermen made the long list in July, the literary community was excited and everyone wanted to know about the writer and this novel.

Synopsis of The Fishermen
Told from the point of view of nine-year-old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the forbidden nearby river they encounter a madman, who predicts that one of the brothers, the eldest, would be killed by “a fisherman,” which he assumes to be one of his own brothers. Thus, an extraordinary tension is created and an almost mythic chain of events- both tragic and redemptive- is set into motion that will transform the lives and imaginations of the novel’s characters and its readers.

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With a new book on the scene, there are bound to be reviews. A reviewer described Obioma as ‘the heir to Chinua Achebe’.

Positive Review: “In his exploration of the mysterious and the murderous, of the terrors that can take hold of the human mind, of the colors of life in Africa, with its vibrant fabrics and its trees laden with fruit, and most of all in his ability to create dramatic tension in this most human of African stories, ­Chigozie Obioma truly is the heir to Chinua Achebe.” – Fiammetta Rocco, The New York Times.

Not so Positive Review: This was the case with Percy Zvomuya’s review of The Fishermen. Concluding his review, Percy stated: “Obioma is a writer to look out for: there is, to be sure, a compelling story somewhere in these 300 pages, as the attention from the folks at the Man Booker Prize attests. But it feels The Fishermen’s inclusion in the longlist has something to do with literary geopolitics: they had to fish out an African.” [Read the complete review here]

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Nigerian writer, Obinna Udenwa (author of Satans and Shaitans) wrote another review in defence of The Fishermen, disagreeing with Percy’s review.

This attempt to ‘Voltron’ for Chigozie Obioma was not well embraced.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.36.47

Oopsie!

When this happened, literary website, Brittle Paper created a post informing her readers about it. [Read her post here]. Chigozie left a comment in the comments section:
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Then it went on Twitter.

and…

Obinna Udenwe went on to express how he felt about Chigozie Obioma’s comments.
Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.39.30Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.38.00

Also, Brittle Paper tweeted at Chigozie Obioma last night:

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.22.42

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In all of this, we wonder whether what they say about all shades of publicity being PUBLICITY.  With all the tweets going back and forth about the book and the dissension of opinions, more people will read the book.

By this morning, Chigozie Obioma had deleted all the tweets he posted. Sadly, as someone put it…it might just be a case of not understanding social media:

What do you think about the idea of reviews and how writers receive it. A lot of times, it is easier to say “have a thick skin.” But every writer knows that their work is their baby; to have someone take swipes at it… no matter how elegantly, stings.

However, there place of reviews can never be overstated as they are usually good markers for readers, to know where to go for their literary bliss.

Have you read The Fishermen? What did you think about it?

We wish Chigozie Obioma the best and hope he clinches the Man Booker Prize!

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore.Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

35 Comments

  1. Ada

    September 16, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    In this kind of thing, its good to be gracious, if you cannot be gracious, just keep silent and let others do the talking for you. You must not attend every fight you are invited to.

    • Manny

      September 17, 2015 at 3:43 am

      It looks like Mr. Obioma is overdue for an enema.

    • whocares

      September 18, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I like you a lot!

  2. Su

    September 16, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    how many people that read this are as confused as I am? :s

  3. DD

    September 16, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    His tweet to Udenwe was a bit random (he could just have ignored the tag – people will always tag on twitter, it’s really no biggie) but his comment on Brittle Paper was over the top. Maybe he was just in a really bad mood.

  4. Bookseller

    September 16, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    You can get this book on Konga. Let’s read…..
    konga.com/the-fishermen-by-chigozie-obioma-hard-cover-1909600

  5. ucylo

    September 16, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    I just hope that his responses do not ruin his chance of winning. I understand him entirely but he should try and follow in the footsteps of Achebe, whom despite labelled the father of African literature did not clinch the Nobel prize for literature. Achebe was later asked why he thinks he never won a Nobel, his answer will make everyone on this blog a proud African, read about Achebe people. No literary prize is worth the putting down of our own, We love you Mr, Obioma, I would go and buy the Fisherman and read it now!

    • chichi

      September 16, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      You better preach girl….
      Is this the stunning ucylo i know?..Dont wanna give out much but i saw you in december at my grandma’s party..

    • ucylo

      September 17, 2015 at 7:09 am

      Awww chichi…yea, it’s me. Having met you once, I can only but hope to attain your level of confidence someday. You are so refined!!!

    • chichi

      September 17, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Aww, you are so sweet. Thanks! You are just as confident.
      Talk to you soon:)

  6. TA

    September 16, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Atoke you too saw the exchange on Brittle paper yesterday? I think Obioma’s response to Udenwe was a bit heavy-handed as if he had been waiting for an opportunity to”lash out’. Obioma please don’t shoot me! That is exactly how you sounded. Lol! Laugh please. Why so serious?
    But that’s not the sad part, sad part is saying he doesn’t read African reviews anymore, hinted at envy and how we like to not support one of our own. Not only is that allegation wrong, it is completely unfair. I will add that the guy should get off his high horse. Yeah I know I will be branded one of his haters.
    PS: I have read the book and I loved it. 🙂

    • whocares

      September 16, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      I have not read the book and I do not want to now. He has tainted his brand for me. Who the heck does he think he is? I hate hate it when Africans make these sweeping statements “Africans” you know all Africans, or just the small pekele ones patronising you and you consider yourself an expert? On top book the whole world has not even read gan sef. The Africans you are dissing are also your biggest fan base you fecking idiots. Ah I just cant. I am too upset. If you did not want to get involved he could have just kept mum or being more charming about his tweet. I detest graceless people. He has no grace. Not an iota of it. I am upset. Boycott the book just for the stupid comments about “Africans”. Africans… really? Fucking idiot. I am not even censoring that anymore. ool

    • Tiki

      September 17, 2015 at 9:59 am

      I feel the same way as you. Even if I read the book, it’ll be in private. Heck, I’ll photocopy someone’s copy so that my purchase doesn’t count to his sales. He has shown himself to be so lacking in common courtesy and social graces, that I cannot help but suspect that this seeps into his work.

  7. Tot

    September 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    He should have ignored, sometimes silence indeed is golden but I have to say that Nigerians and pull-me-down (or rather pull others down) syndrome, it is a big problem. One of the reasons the country is still where it is today.

    • kemi

      September 16, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      The obioma guy didnt pull him down though. He was defending him against a bad review in d beginning. The only thing he did wrong was tag d authour. (Dts d source of all these issues – d authour found fault wt d tag).

      A website then wrote an article abt d authour finding fault wt d personal tag from a reader.

      The authour then went on a rant on d websites article. And now everyone has an issue wt d authours rant – which was really over the top. Even d obioma dt was defending him is confused by his rxn & started dissing him.

      All this wld have bn avoided if he had just ignored d tag in d first place. And to think it was a friendly tag from a fan. smh.

  8. Person

    September 16, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Who is he? A new author? Won some awards? The tone of his response is extremely disrespectful. I won’t be reading. No skin of his back, I am sure 🙂

  9. Bookseller

    September 16, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Oga o, madam bella. post my comment now. is it bad to direct people to buy the book on Konga?

  10. Bees

    September 16, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I was a fan of Obioma. No more mbok. A few weeks ago he replied a comment on Ikhide’s facebook wall when a poster left a comment that hinted at not liking The Fishermen. Obioma came barking and the commenter engaged, obioma spotted trouble and backed down, claiming he was merely an intern for the author and not the author himself. Who died and gave him an intern?

    I think his problem with Udenwe is that Udenwe critiqued his usage of Igbo in TF, claiming that Obioma didn’t have mastery of the language blah blah. I am not Igbo so na them sabi. So Obioma saw the opportunity and attacked yesterday.

    Someone help me tell him that his diva antics might cost him the prize. I pity those who were in his MFA class. I bet they wore battle gear on days they discussed Obioma’s work.

  11. nwanyi na aga aga

    September 16, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    This is the second time I am seeing Chigozie Obioma lash out because people critiqued his book, which by the way is not all that great. I read a very fair review of his book by Pa Ikhide, whom I know can be sometimes annoying but his review of the book fisher man was fair, very fair. In the comment section Chigozie came and lashed out too. Maybe he has anger issues shaa. He should have just ignored. All these new writers like feeling like “ndi mmuo”. One nomination or too *booom* they become too big. He should chill. Not everyone will like your book. As much as I like the captivating nature of Chimamanda Adichie’s recount.. I have never been able to finish half of a yellow sun..when everybody oohhs and aaahhs, I keep scratching my head wandering if its just me or my brain. Yet the book is winning awards. So Chigozie had better calm down, read the criticisms, dump the shaft and work on the ones he needs to learn from shikena..writing is an art, you always need to get better.

  12. Abimbola Dare

    September 16, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Sigh. Let me be nominated for MB prize… super long-long list sef… If the world insults me, I go just dey laff go! I will read his book and learn what it takes to be recognized to that level :-). As for the author, not everyone will like your work. Appreciate those who do, learn from the criticisms, and strive to get better. It never ends with just one book!. *back to my writing desk*

  13. Precious

    September 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    I think Obioma would have just ignored the review. His comment on Brittle paper spewed so much indifference to Africans. Sometime, it is wiser to keep quiet and swallow your thoughts. Congrats to him though! I write at preciouscore.com

  14. nunulicious

    September 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    I can’t deal.
    I hate rejection which is why I avoided modelling even when urged to. I cringe at feedback despite being told it helps. So I admire folks who put their work out there. me think you haff to grow thick skin and get used to the critique and reviews. Thou cannot be selective in the reaction your work generates. But what do I know, I’m just an ordinary citizen.

  15. Onyi

    September 16, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I just finished this book last week and was blown away, so do not be dismayed, this book is sheer genius and a masterpiece. Please read!!!! and ignore what’s happening.

    • Tosin

      September 16, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      thanks for saying something about the work. is it around (like Lagos) so i can try it?
      this voltron article tweets etc i didn’t understand at all tho.

    • Bookseller

      September 16, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      Yes o, it’s on Konga. U can order yours now

  16. Idomagirl

    September 16, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Interesting..

  17. Obioma really put his foot in it

    September 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I read The Fishermen just a few days ago, and while I think it’s a really good book, I wondered if it was worthy of a Booker shortlist.

    You often expect people who can put pen to paper and come out with something of such beauty to be possessed of some wisdom but I’ve had to rethink this assumption with the recent antics of Obioma.

    From his graceless response to a mostly positive review to his frothing at the mouth diatribe on brittle paper, issuing sweeping statements about ‘Africans’, it’s obvious that he is not ready for the elevation such a reputable nomination can confer.

    Plus I’m tired of these self hating writers who use Africa as their muse and then turn around to say they are not writing for Africa.

    Obioma, get some manners, and if that’s too lofty an ambition, then silence will do. Emulate your sister woman Chimamanda, who at least chooses her words carefully. If I hadn’t read your book already I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.

  18. Tafia101

    September 16, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Brittle paper no vex abeg. Nominate him for the Nobel prize abi whatever award he’s vying for biko. It’s not his fault. Igbo men be catching feelings like toddlers since 19-gbigidi. It’s a mixture of ingrained haughtiness and the hotness of that Naija sun.

    • zee

      September 16, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Clap for urself for making dat sweeping statement abt igbo men… i bet u’ll be racist if u were caucasian!

    • Idomagirl

      September 17, 2015 at 1:24 am

      You just had to make this about tribe…

  19. Emeka

    September 17, 2015 at 8:20 am

    This just deepens my curiosity as to why some books and short stories get short listed sometimes. As for Obioma, he should consult Chimamanda on social media and publicity matters. Many a times silence is the best apparel to attend such occasions as this.

  20. wakapass

    September 17, 2015 at 11:08 am

    You people should pardon the guy nau. He’s just a childish 28 year old professor who feels he has achieved something unprecedented and wants the whole world to bow at his feet. Anyways, whether he has anger issues or not, I will go get the book on Konga and read. I will not trade the bliss of reading a beautiful work of art that has made Man Booker Prize shortlist.

    We love you ooo Chigozie but tread softly and let this your paranoia reduce small. Stop thinking the worst of home.

  21. deka

    September 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    will buy his book asap…. want to know whether to like or not like him..lol

  22. [email protected]

    September 18, 2015 at 2:23 am

    Thanks for breaking this down, BN. Tried to follow what was going on on Twitter , but between the RTs and the quotes, articles and jumping from one timeline to the other I just gave up.

  23. Rayva

    October 3, 2015 at 9:27 am

    All na publicity rant……….There is no such thing as bad publicity, if I had’nt seen this I wouldnt have known about the book. Now am eager to buy it to read

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