Americanah

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.23.55 PMAmericanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (2013)
4th Estate, Great Britain (2017)

“She felt his words like a melody and she felt herself breathing unevenly, gulping at the air. She would not cry, it was ridiculous to cry after so long, but her eyes were filling with tears and there was a boulder in her chest and a stinging in her throat. The tears felt itchy. She made no sound. He took her hand in his, both clasped on the table, and between them silence grew, an ancient silence that they both knew. She was inside this silence and she was safe.” (439)

It felt like the whole book was leading to this moment, in Chapter 52, when Obnize and Ifemelu are to be together once again. They have both travelled so far, both in distance and in spirit, only to be reunited for this chapter. In what Adiche dexterously describes in the matter of a few moments, they are able to travel together through all of the layers of one another’s lives which they have missed. Within seconds of their second conversation, held now in Ifemelu’s lounge room, Obnize brings their relationship out of shared or separate memories into the present, into the very nowness of their bond, “I spent the morning reading The Small Redemptions of Lagos. Scouring it, actually,” he said.” (435) Next they tumble through the painful loss of his mother and the disatisfaction of his marriage, all amongst the backdrop of a discussion of architecture, obligations tied to identity, and the courting rituals of the peacocks upon the roof of a neighbouring building. Finally, the painful truth of Ifem’s sexual assault is unwoven and laid bare through the power of speech, only to be taken up gently into a new fold of intimacy on which their bond is founded. Each of the parts of “Americanah” structurally echo the distance between Obnize and Ifemelu, from from the moment they part, till Part 7, in which Chapter 52 is situated, they never figure in the same section. Almost as an alignment of the fabric of their existence, their parts are able to come together once again. Fittingly then, does the chapter commence with an image suitable to this collision of worlds, “There was a moment, a caving of the blue sky”. (427) Although not the technical conclusion to the book, Chapter 52 makes up the end of Ifemelu and Obnize’s long voyage back home.

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