Read To Win

Why 'Half of a Yellow Sun' won the 'Best of the Best' of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Continuing our series on readers’ choices of books that have moved them.

There is a toy, called a thaumatrope, composed of a thick paper disc attached to string. It looks roughly like this: —O—.  Its name means “Wonder Turner”. On one side there may be a picture of a bird, and on the other a cage; or on one side a tree and on the other leaves. Thanks to the persistence of image, when a person twists the string to spin the disc, the two pictures on either side join in the eye. The bird, free at rest but frozen, in motion both occupies and escapes the cage, which lies empty and less poignant in stasis. The tree assumes its leaves in the passage of the disc’s rapid seasons.

This figure also functions conceptually: place “space” on one side and “time” on the other, or “male” and “female”, or “even” and “odd”, or “finite” and “infinite”. The thaumatrope is a truly Pythagorean device. Half of a Yellow Sun is such an instrument.

The practice of love offers no place of safety. We risk loss, hurt, pain. We risk being acted upon by forces outside our control.
- bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows that time alone is inadequate to a description of history. She is thus wise to choose to write fiction, a form almost wholly absorbed with human relations, to which she seems highly attuned: her depictions have earned due adulation. Just last month, Ngozi Adichie’s 2006 novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the “Best of the Best” of a decade of Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winners.

The book, which received the original Baileys award in 2007, along with the prestigious Orange prize, tracks a family through West Africa’s seismic sixties, in which Nigeria became an independent republic, dissolved into civil war then spawned and aborted another country.

“I grew up in the shadow of Biafra,” says Ngozi Adichie. “I grew up hearing ‘before the war’ and ‘after the war’ stories; it was as if the war had somehow divided the memories of my family. I have always wanted to write about Biafra – not only to honor my grandfathers, but also to honor the collective memory of an entire nation.”

States stand, in this work, for the situation. Events reverberate at scales: Subject and Object are corollary. Counterintuitively, timelines actually fracture thematic continuity.

Can we not find it in ourselves to belong to an ancient civilisation instead of to just a recent nation? To love a land instead of just patrolling a territory?
- Arundhati Roy, Democracy

The narrative of Half of a Yellow Sun, Ngozi Adichie’s second book, charts six individuals through a sort of vortex of personal and political crises. Sections leap over years, so the reader sometimes only feels echoes of events that have occurred in the interim, which get filled in as the story progresses.

The civil war, which began in 1966 with an Igbo military coup against Hausa (“Northern”) and Yoruba (“Western”) leaders, provides the plot’s engine. Newly liberated, Nigeria’s switch from colony to democracy left many suddenly-antiquated power edifices in place, and the first coup was a response to unequal tribal representation in the buxom, heavily incestuous government.

Unrest ensued, plus another coup against Igbo (“Southeastern”) soldiers that spilled over into citizens. Hence the secession of Biafra: tension between North and South is a universal issue. These tribes are also distinguished as language groups. The climate is complicated in that the violence in a way enacts people’s explicit desires.

Since facts are to some extent given, twists arrive via the characters’ lives. Ugwu, Olanna and Richard are the foci: they get the ostensible “I”. Richard, from Britain, is romantically involved with Olanna’s non-identical twin, Kainene, heiress to a manufacturing dynasty heavily embedded in the old regime. Olanna teaches sociology; her “revolutionary lover”, Odenigbo, teaches mathematics and hosts a nightly salon of local intellectuals, which allows Ngozi Adichie opportunities to interrogate rhetoric and nationalist “Spirit” with a spectrum of perspectives.

Ugwu is Odenigbo’s houseboy, raised in a village. The last of the six is a girl child, most often in Ugwu’s care. Together, the ensemble represents contiguous strata of society, and Ngozi Adichie deploys them to great effect. Their affairs, thoughts, experiences and states of mind not only inspire belief; they invite empathy, which is an ideal achievement.

There has never been a document of culture, which is not simultaneously one of barbarism.
- Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History

“I wanted to write about love and war,” says Ngozi Adichie. These are the poles she inscribes on her thaumatrope and invests with movement. In its spin we see their overlaps, as well as how they exceed and transcend each other. Care can breed possession, jealousy, paranoia, greed. Trials forge and purify affection, strengthen bonds and purge deceit. The toy in Ngozi Adichie’s deft hands is serious, and play elucidates reality.

Half of a Yellow Sun contains two central images, which repeat at intervals. First, there is the Igbo-Ukwu roped vessel, testament to the region’s mastery of copper metallurgy as early as the Ninth Century CE. It is an ornate, wrought record of human achievement: the capacity to manipulate matter. Richard cites the artifact as his whole impetus to move to Nigeria. The roped pot, as an object, speaks to a vibrant cultural heritage before both written language and colonial oppression.

Second, there is the calabash Olanna sees on a train home from an area affected by the war. Calabashes are also known as bottle gourds, which, since prehistory, have been hollowed and dried to make vessels, utensils and musical instruments. The calabash Olanna sees bears a young girl’s head; the girl’s mother carries the gourd: Love and War.

Everything is bilateral in the domain of thought. Ideas are two-sided. Only God is triangular!
- Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions

With the Wonder Turner, the vessels merge and gain identity in the persistence of image. The Igbo-Ukwu roped pot grows smooth, organic, a natural product of evolution, while the calabash assumes ornament, gets crafted, acts as evidence of advanced civilization. Each has a head in it: together they are one. “There is no was.” Our maps today bear no trace of Biafra, but it’s there behind them. The pages of Half of a Yellow Sun turn with enough grace and speed to true history.

Zachary Bushnell works across mediums such as poetry, prose, theatre and performance. He currently teaches writing and critical theory at a university in Delhi.

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of and not by the Scroll editorial team.