Thoughts on Nigerian Writing and Literature

Thoughts on Nigerian Writing and Literature

– I am against self-publishing. I am yet to read a self-published book that was not awful on many levels. If you can’t submit your work to review, don’t publish. Having said, that I understand why many Nigerian authors self-publish. Many Nigerian “publishing houses” are merely stapling machines. They are allergic to professional editors.

– What I think is criminal is that some required text books in Nigerian classrooms are self-published, never saw an editor. And people wonder why our educational system is in shambles. Child abuse.

– It is great that the Internet and social media have democratized and demystified the writing life; however many “writers” should be readers. To write well, you must be a good reader. Many writers should not be writing…

– Sometimes, reputable publishers are intimidated by big names. Professor Wole Soyinka’s new book, “Of Africa” should never have been published. It is quite simply awful.

– It is a great time to be alive if you are into African literature. Some really good stuff out there. But I worry that publishing is killing our literature. In the case of Nigeria, we need to brainstorm ways of investing in serious publishing houses. Ideas anyone?

– No book published in Nigeria deserves the $100,000 NLNG Prize, none. N100,000 perhaps. Nothing against the writers. I mostly blame the sad state of publishing.

– At this stage in Nigeria’s literary development, the Nigerian government should partner with institutions like the NLNG to build a real publishing house. The NLNG should restructure its financial investment in Nigerian literature to accommodate this urgent need.

– Nigeria’s $100K NLNG Prize for literature continues to grow in stature and prestige and should be applauded for invigorating the arts. However, money is not everything.The $10K Caine Prize is more prestigious. Why?

– The elephant in the room. If the “African writer” does not escape to the West, nothing, absolutely nothing will come of his or her writing. It is the sad truth. Africa is hell for writers.

– African literature. Honest conversations. We must ask why, after Achebe, Ngugi, Soyinka, we are left with the remnants of good publishing…

– African literature! In the 21st century, the stories of Africa are still being being vetted by the West. There is no excuse for this shame.

– I have no apologies for asking the question, why the trajectory of African literature is predetermined by the rich West. I ask again. Why? In the 21st century, why is our literature still beholden to the West? Why are our best writers still stooges of the West’s eclectic avuncular taste?

– Professor Chinua Achebe reminds us of the East African proverb: Until the lion tells his story, the hunt will always be glorified by the hunter. African writers, chew on this…

_________

Editor’s Note – These comments by Ikhide generated quite some discussion on Facebook recently. What are your thoughts?

At writingprogress.com you can find more information about writing tips and help provided by writers.


17 thoughts on “Thoughts on Nigerian Writing and Literature” by Ikhide (@ikhide)

  1. Profile photo of Salliness
    Salliness (@Salliness): Writer - 6810 pts

    First of all, I thought this was funny. However, it goes ahead to describe the poor state of publishing in the country especially highlighting that our stories are not told properly by us; the West has hijacked our stories.
    All I want to know is what is the out?

  2. Profile photo of Ife Watson
    Ife Watson (@petunia007): Scribe - 15622 pts

    These are valid observations on the state of African literature. However, I disagree that all self-published books are mediocre. Many good works have been rejected by publishers who are not willing to try out new authors.
    On the NLNG prize for literature, I think it’s up to the winners to make good use of the money; while for some it’s a pension, others can invest it in improving their writing.

  3. Profile photo of Tola Odejayi
    Tola Odejayi (@TolaO): Wordsmith - 37887 pts

    The reality is that writing, like culture, can only survive when it has the support and patronage of the community that is its intended audience. And most Nigerians would rather read a rollercoaster of a thriller or a tear-jerking romance than elevated literary fiction. So I’m suprised that Ikhide completely neglects to mention the promotion of popular fiction in his list of points as a way of promoting reading in Nigeria.

    1. Profile photo of Kurannen Baaki
      Kurannen Baaki (@kurannenbaaki): Junior Writer - 2955 pts

      Truly every writer has eye for “elevated literary fiction”. that completely neglects the reader. why? because maybe a writer would never have a chance of winning the NLNG price writing thrillers, and would never have a chance of lobbying his book to be forced on students in schools. but then he would satisfy a wide variety of readers who would reward him with a tremendous fanbase. i think genre fiction should be promoted in Nigeria and we might just see the difference.

      1. Profile photo of Kurannen Baaki
        Kurannen Baaki (@kurannenbaaki): Junior Writer - 2955 pts

        Truly every writer has eye for “elevated literary fiction”. that completely neglects the reader. why? because maybe a writer would never have a chance of winning the *NLNG Prize* writing thrillers, and would never have a chance of lobbying his book to be forced on students in schools. but then he would satisfy a wide variety of readers who would reward him with a tremendous fanbase. i think genre fiction should be promoted in Nigeria and we might just see the difference.

  4. Profile photo of Jaywriter
    Jaywriter (@jaywriter): Junior Writer - 1990 pts

    Between film, music and literature, isn’t literature doing better than the other two?

    I am a big fan of independent studios/movies, and I think self-publishing is similar. Keeps artistic fans sane. Also helps very talented unusual ‘artists’ reach the right audience.

    Some very good points there.

    1. Profile photo of mikeeffa
      mikeeffa (@mikeeffa): Writer - 8271 pts

      my good sir, you hit the nail on the head, african literature is doing much better than music and film.

  5. Profile photo of howyoudey
    howyoudey (@howyoudey): Head Wordsmith - 100646 pts

    I’m Ikhide’s biggest fan, but I disagree with him, a bit, on this “self-publish” business. It happens everyday, my brother, and it’s through “self-publishing” we, today, enjoy indispensible toys like the the desk top computer, the i-phone, traffic lights, naijastories.com, Mr. Ikhide, etc, etc. See, if the minds behind these entities had to go through the same-old, same-old power structures to be, we’d all still be in the dark ages today. Maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing because we’d be living in a world that’s less advanced, but greener, and less fragile.

    See, the problem is not self-publishing, but QUALITY. If the self-published writer mimics that genius behind the publishing house’s quality control department and comes out with a quality product, what’s the problem? Just because oyinbo has told us that it’s “bad” to self-publish doesn’t mean that it’s so.

  6. Profile photo of Seun-Odukoya
    Seun-Odukoya (@Seun-Odukoya): Head Wordsmith - 104544 pts

    I agree with bros there – not all the way but he makes some valid points. For instance where he says

    “The elephant in the room. If the “African writer” does not escape to the West, nothing, absolutely nothing will come of his or her writing. It is the sad truth. Africa is hell for writers.”

    is nothing but truth. How many successful writers are still here?!

    Another point is

    “African literature! In the 21st century, the stories of Africa are still being being vetted by the West. There is no excuse for this shame.”

    and

    ” I have no apologies for asking the question, why the trajectory of African literature is predetermined by the rich West. I ask again. Why? In the 21st century, why is our literature still beholden to the West? Why are our best writers still stooges of the West’s eclectic avuncular taste?”

    Yeah. The best stories out there are those that portray us in negative lights. Why? The western world does not want to read good stuff. They mostly want their beliefs about Africa reiterated. Beliefs like ‘they live on trees” “they are cannibals” “they are all prostitutes and drug dealers and kidnappers’ and all sorts of trash.

    Well. Bottom line is:

    “- Professor Chinua Achebe reminds us of the East African proverb: Until the lion tells his story, the hunt will always be glorified by the hunter. African writers, chew on this…”

    I’m grateful. Let’s go!

    1. Profile photo of Daireen
      Daireen (@daireenonline): Scribe - 16629 pts

      @seun-odukoya True talk boss, true talk!

  7. Profile photo of Daireen
    Daireen (@daireenonline): Scribe - 16629 pts

    By the way, the thoughts on baba Soyinka, bros! No matter how badly Tuface sings, he’ll be lauded since it’s not a regular occurrence.

    On self publishing and all, I totally agree with you. The problem I think is, editors may get glorified and/or elitist. That said, I believe writers should allow others critique their works and improve. The best way to grow and develop the art.

  8. Profile photo of Seyi
    Seyi (@supremo): Junior Writer - 2445 pts

    I dunno what makes ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ outstanding besides the accolades of the writer; yet, it used to be a compulsory piece for literature students in secondary schools.

  9. Profile photo of isaac anyaogu
    isaac anyaogu (@isaac82): Writer - 8100 pts

    Thoughtful piece, frank and brutal truth, especially the part about money not being everything and NLNG

  10. Profile photo of mikeeffa
    mikeeffa (@mikeeffa): Writer - 8271 pts

    well let the truth be told as it has been done. again what actually is the way out of this confusion? upcoming writers needs to be encouraged if we must escape the strangle hold of the west. like Ikhide our pub houses are slaping houses and truly- they are not willing to take new authors they rather prefer to publish text books only some of which are not properly written but forced down on the students. AFRICA ARISE

  11. Profile photo of Ellie
    Ellie (@elly): Writer - 9331 pts

    Ikhide has made some valid points, but I would really love to have engaged him in a conversation maybe he would have thought differently on some points.

    How many countries of the world have governments that are into publishing, saying a company that endows a literary prize should diversify its endowment to publishing because self published books do not fit the bill of what ‘he’ thinks should clinch the prize is a no-no.

    The Caine prize to me represents what the west wants our writing to be like, it covers a wider stage- the whole of Africa so I don’t think it is more prestigious personally, it opens doors to the writer yes, but (the NLNG prize should also go a step further to look for fellowships and the likes for its winners)- the NLNG prize recognizes our own- Nigerian writers- this prize should not be belittled.

    The problem with our publishing industry is that investors have not been made to see the business side of it, and that’s simply because there are no mega profits to be made from it, profits will come when the reading culture of our people improve.

    When Nigeria stops been a dumping ground of tokunbo books, how many indigenous books for children do we have that we can really say are good books?

    I have given over a thousand books to children this year, how many were by Nigerian authors? None!
    Please as readers who want quality books- contents and packaging and writers who want a vibrant industry with book deals and so on let us take it upon our selves to promote a good reading culture- only @TolaO related this issue to reading culture- writers should try to churn out contemporary tales.

  12. Profile photo of lactoo
    lactoo (@louis): Writer - 9554 pts

    well, what do i say now? Good observations but… There’s a but.

  13. Profile photo of chemokopi
    chemokopi (@chemokopi): Head Wordsmith - 282914 pts

    Interesting insight. As for self-publishing, it still boils down to two things: editing and marketing. If the writer can source for resources to do these tasks in ways that equal or surpass what traditional publishing houses provide, then he has largely succeeded. Nothing kills a book’s worth than the absence of these.

    Well, the Igbo have their own version of the proverb: “Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter”.

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