Ngozi Adichie's Reith lecture makes a 'passionate, trenchant call-to-arms'

Adichie's worries are the worries of every writer and artist; about authoritarianism, about rightwing populism, about fake news and about democracy failing.

Published: 28th November 2022 09:51 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2022 10:44 PM   |  A+A-

A backdated image of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (Photo | AP)

By Online Desk

"If we cannot tell the truth to one another, literature is finished," believes the author of 'Americanah,' Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Her take on the trans issue has not many takers among the liberals. She has drawn flak for her remarks on the issue. For precisely that, she has also apparently earned the prefix 'controversial.' One can disagree with her. But then to be a writer in itself is to question the status quo and deal with the consequential loneliness. 

This is however about her Reith Lecture for the BBC.  The theme this year is 'freedom,' and Ngozi Adichie’s contribution, which will launch the series this Wednesday on Radio 4, is on freedom of speech.

"The word was that it would be a cat-among-the-pigeons moment, making all the liberals in the incredibly curated audience clutch their pearls. The stated intention is, as you’d expect from Reith’s mission, to educate and entertain. But the subtext, I think, is to set a grenade off under some issue of the day," writes columnist Zoe Williams in her interview with the author in The Guardian.

"In her Reith Lecture, Ngozi Adichie makes a passionate, trenchant call-to-arms, and argues that our culture of self-censorship, policing each other’s language, cordoning off whole subjects as unsayable, is “almost the death knell of literary and other cultural production," The Guardian column reveals.

Adichie's worries are the worries of every writer and artist; about authoritarianism, about rightwing populism, about fake news and about democracy failing.

"Ngozi Adichie worries about creeping authoritarianism, about rightwing populism, about fake news and about democracy failing. These are exactly the same things that those she sees as the enemies of free speech worry about. If I think the free speech debate is being puppeted by the right to destroy the unity of the left, she probably thinks I’m someone else’s useful idiot. But in combat, as she is in her prose, she’s exhilarating and I’m glad we had the conversation. The paradox of her Reith Lecture, as in the free speech debate generally, is all the things it doesn’t say," the column points out.

"Literature deeply matters and I believe literature is in peril because of social censure. If nothing changes, the next generation will read us and wonder, how did they manage to stop being human? How were they so lacking in contradiction and complexity? How did they banish all their shadows?," Adichie inquires.



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