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ACHEBE

CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN WRITING

AND HIS INFLUENCE IN SOME

African

intertextuality

Chinua Achebe

Igbo curse of twins

influence

returning baby

motif

Things Fall

Apart

1 Although it is true that no story is entirely original, that all writing is effectively rewriting (Tymocsko 2003:

50), Achebe’s novel was generative in that it seeded a new line of stories of generational conflict, of cultural change to a far wider audience than had previously been privy to them.

a far wider audience than had previously been privy to them. Elleke Boehmer University of Oxford,

Elleke Boehmer

University of Oxford, UK

The influence of Chinua Achebe on African writing since 1958 when Things Fall Apart appeared is almost incalculable. With that novel he bequeathed a whole new catalogue of cultural historical stories to readers across the globe, for whom Nigeria till then was a remote, unimagined space: he gave ‘permission’, as Chimamanda Adichie has anecdotally commented and did so vis-a`-vis his own country and the globe (Kessel 2003). 1 Though Things Fall Apart was not the first anglophone novel by a black African to be published that honour goes, arguably, to Solomon Plaatje’s Mhudi (1930) the book decisively told an African story from within an African frame of cultural reference. Moreover, it did so within a mode, that of tragedy, to which a range of different audiences both in Africa and the West could relate. So it was entirely appropriate that it was this novel, reissued within a few years of its first publication, that launched the Heinemann African Writers’ Series as its inaugural text (Currey 2008: 2, 27). With Things Fall Apart and the novels that followed in the next decade No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966) Achebe offered a way of writing Africa that would prove influential, not to say

interventions Vol. 11(2) 141 153 (ISSN 1369-801X print/1469-929X online)

Copyright # 2009 Taylor & Francis

DOI: 10.1080/13698010903052982

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path-breaking, a paradigm shift, for African literature subsequently. This approach might be characterized as vernacular and idiomatic, embedded in local myth and oral tradition, yet also involved in two chief concerns: to explore in the once-colonial language of English the subtle, often fatal

seductions of the colonial project; and to assert a specifically African voice and historical presence. As has often been said across the year of its fiftieth birthday celebrations, Things Fall Apart generated an awareness in writing from Africa and other regions that it was not only possible but imperative to take on colonial misrepresentations of others, and the binary supports on which these rested.

It was not surprising therefore that following the novels appearance, a

whole new genealogy of writing ramified, most immediately in Nigeria itself, with the 1960s emergence of the prominent and talented group of writers that included Nkem Nwankwo, Flora Nwapa, and Elechi Amadi, and arguably also the poet Christopher Okigbo. These writers, all cultural nationalists and to some extent organicists like Achebe, and all Igbo, were interested in telling stories of their communities using symbols of recogniz- ably local provenance (Boehmer 2005a: 179, 183 4). At the same time, through these narratives of community travail and overcoming, they traced trajectories of national emergence, trajectories that were rudely and tragically cut short by the national emergency that was Biafra. But the waves of influence emanating from Achebes work at the levels not merely of ethnographiccontent, but of oral style, transliterated language, communal

narrative position, and epistemological framing, and of these elements working together, can be detected in areas further afield. They can be traced in Zimbabwean writing since the 1980s (think of Shimmer Chinodyas Harvest of Thorns); in Papua New Guinean writing of the 1980s and subsequently, as also in the work of the Samoan Alfred Wendt (Keown 2007:

197 8); and in the novels of the Aboriginal-identified Australian writer Mudrooroo. A case might even be made for Salman Rushdies Midnight’s Children (1981) as representing a further instance of diffused and indirect influence from Achebe, given that Rushdies novel, too, follows a commu- nitys coming-into-being through a process of cataclysmic historical change. As this suggests, the subject of Achebes influence, in particular of his most canonized novel, posits any number of connections and contiguities, at local, regional and international levels. The transmission of his influence reminds us, as Partha Mitter has commented, of how diffuse as well as direct, heterogeneous and uneven as well as smooth, cross-fertilized as well as copied, the transmission of influence can be (Mitter 2007: 7 13). Standing at the head of a tradition or genealogy of writing as Achebe does, he has become

a dominant point of origin, a hyper-precursor one might say, in whose

aftermath virtually every African author self-consciously writes. At the same time African writers relate to his influence in various ways deferentially or

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Elleke Boehmer

2 For informed discussion of the lines of (af)filiation and transfer of influence that connect Okris work to that of his literary precursors, see Quayson (1997).

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disruptively, embellishing or reducing, adapting incisively or tangentially, with Bloomian strengthor with weakness(Bloom 1973). Even given the inevitable diffusion and etiolation of his influence in more recent decades, it remains difficult from our point of view now, reading African writing after Achebe, to conceive of African writing without him. To reduce the burgeoning subject of Achebes influence to manageable, essay-length proportions, I here propose to consider the transmission process from his work to othersin the form of a delineated case study focusing on the relay and adaptation of a complicated cluster of motifs. Though it would be interesting to examine features like language borrowing, generic transfer, and the replication of narrative voice in Achebes literary followers, my concern is to investigate a set of powerfully generative images through which influence has arguably moved from a strong text such as Achebes into later texts. Certainly, these generative images which also, significantly, are images of generation have performed prominent roles in the work of the interlocutors who have addressed themes and issues that also preoccupy him. As suggested by the word generative, these motifs have to do with modes of reproduction that are traditionally cursed or tabooed: they are expressed in the shape either of twins (forbidden in traditional Igbo society) or of the ogbanje, abiku or fatefully returning child. In other words, they deal, interestingly, in forms of anomalous generation generation that is either excessive (multiple births) or impaired (failed births). The body of the essay explores how these motifs operate in a small but distinct group of writers who have worked some time after Achebe. It is worth acknowledging straightaway, however, that early on Flora Nwapa in Efuru (1966) at once signalled and sealed her having obtained permissionfrom Achebe by making her eponymous market-woman character an ogbanje mother. Here, the focus begins in the 1990s with the Nigerian- born Ben Okris The Famished Road (1991) and its central abiku character Azaro (abiku being the Yoruba word for ogbanje). 2 Okri memorably develops the abiku childs story in his novel into an analogy for the emergent, yet reluctant-to-be-born, Nigerian nation. Thereafter, attention moves to the Nigerian-British novelist Diana Evans26a (2005), in which a pair of Nigerian-British twins who survive into adulthood form the central narrative consciousness. Then the essay looks at the twin protagonists of Nigerian Chimamanda Adichies Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), and at a single passage on returning babies in Alexandra Fullers memoir of colonial Rhodesia, Dont Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight (2002). A brief reference to the suspected appearance of an ogbanje child in my own recent novel Nile Baby (2008), which is concerned with curtailed promises and buried histories, rounds off the analysis. As suggested, both intertwined strands of transferred motifs of the ogbanje and the cursed twins relate to the potential for growth and the

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frustration of that potential, and so to the dangers, anomalies and possibilities of destruction that accompany the appearance of all new life. These motifs that gesture at Achebe therefore also emphasize the perils and distortions accompanying the transmission of traditions, practices and knowledge from one generation to another. Possibly, too, they reflect, even if obliquely, on the difficulty of enlisting in a genealogy that leads from a hyper-precursor such as Achebe one who has so persuasively incorpo- rated motifs from local myth and oral tradition like the ogbanje into his work. In sum, influence from Achebe in these various cases operates through motifs that themselves refer to risky, sometimes etiolated, sometimes intensified, processes of (conceptual, metaphoric and stylistic) transfer. The essay therefore approaches these motifs as a type of symbolic code, in order to consider how they themselves work as vehicles of cultural transmission and translation. Chris Abani (2008) has commented on how Achebes legendary presence closes from all directions on the creative terrain he occupies as a fellow Igbo writer, and yet, paradoxically, allows other writers, including himself, entry, exchange, responsiveness; that is to say, bequeaths a voice. From such a point of view, too, it is interesting that the motifs that have migrated more or less intact though not without interrogation from Achebe to others are concerned to highlight at once the deadly dangers and the creative challenges associated with that process of migration or cultural translation. This man told [Okonkwo] that the child was an ogbanje, one of those wicked children who, when they died, entered their motherswombs to be born again(Achebe 1962: 54). To proceed, it is helpful to be reminded of Achebes citation of the figures of the ogbanje and the cursed twins in Things Fall Apart. The ogbanje child in that novel is of course Ezinma, the only living child of Okonkwos favourite wife Ekwefi, towards whom however he rarely shows affection in public. Ezinma and Ekwefi are twice introduced as characters before the scene in which Ezinma begins to ail, as all ogbanje inevitably do, which, not coincidentally, is soon after the death of Ikemefuna at Okonkwos hands (Achebe 1962: 28, 35). She becomes at this time an emotional barometer of Okonkwos depression. At last Ezinma was born,

and although ailing she seemed determined to

But all of a sudden she

would go down again. Everybody knew she was ogbanje.Indeed, in so far as the diagnosis of Ezinmas disorder correlates with the description of Okonkwos emotional state, there may be an undercurrent suggestion here that Okonkwo himself with his fits of aggression, irrational moods, and tendency to self-destruct, bears ogbanje qualities. The information Things Fall Apart gives concerning ogbanje is juxtaposed, significantly, with the first references in the novel to the Evil Forest, more often now called the Bad Bush, which is the place where mutilated ogbanje corpses are thrown, along with other cursed dead and dying, including twins.

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The hope in doing so is that the ogbanje will thereby be too incapacitated and ontologically demoralized to come back and haunt their mothers. The knowledge of community lore transmitted in these details then prepares for the scene in chapter 11 when Ekwefi and Okonkwo shadow Chielo the priestess, devotee of Agbala, when she disappears into her shrine with a feverish Ezinma for a night, but finally returns her, restored, to her bed. Thereafter, through and in spite of Okonkwos years of exile, Ezinma grows into a healthy, buoyant maiden, still the apple of her fathers eye, though prone to unpredictable bouts of depression not too different from the periods of darkness that beset her father (Achebe 1962: 122). In a narrative in which Okonkwos legendary strengths are carefully balanced against the crimes fuelled by his anxiety and excessive aggression,

his delight in and care for Ezinma a girl, as he observes with irritation, not

a boy counts as one of his volatile strengths. Through her, as well as

through the lessons of his exile, he learns to understand a little more clearly how Mother is supreme. In his son Nwoyes case, by contrast, solicitous- ness for the cursed and the outcast is out of proportion to his other qualities, and this eventually drives the son into the arms of the missionaries. He has been disconcerted by unexplained cruelties within the life of the village: the death of Ikemefuna, the question of the twins crying in the bush(Achebe 1962: 104). In Diana Evans and Chimamanda Adichie these accursed twins crying in the bush, doomed to die, triumphantly if also ambiguously become the ebullient central characters of the novels 26a and Half of a Yellow Sun. But before going into this in more detail, my focus must first move to the presence of Achebe in Okris The Famished Road, where it intermeshes with the equally prominent presences of Soyinka, Okigbo, and also Bekederemo (John Pepper Clark).

Okri, Evans, Adichie

Our country is an abiku country. Like the spirit-child it keeps coming and going. One day it will decide to remain. It will become strong.

Ben Okri (1991: 478)

If there is one outstanding feature of Okris The Famished Road when

compared with Achebe, it is that he has moved away from a dominant interpretative trend in African writing, set by Things Fall Apart. In his work images of African reality derived from the oral tradition are adapted not so much to discuss the representation of Africa, as to address dimensions of African experience through an African symbolic language. For him, it is a

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3 For further discussion of the oblique and palimpsestic referencing of tradition in Okri, see the discussion in Boehmer (2005b:

140 57).

question of what more than how. These other dimensions include a concern with the other-than-colonial, also the other-than-national. In contrast to colonial writing describing Africa as exotic, and to nationalist-realist writing that reverses colonial stereotypes, the different planes of reality in Okris novel merge the magical and the real in order to construct allegorical narrative arcs which encapsulate the national condition, yet also refer beyond that experiential realm. In Okris essay for Chinua Achebe, Redreaming the World, first published in the Guardian in August 1990 (Okri 1990: 23; 1997: 128 33), he spoke of how the suffering of the oppressed allows them to redream the world. He could also have said how his wrestling with Achebe has allowed him to redream his own work. Okris fiction deals in what Harry Garuba (2003) has defined as a retraditionalizationprocess, whereby traditional cultural forms, such as the figure of, and legends adhering to, the returning baby or child are used to interpret the modern world. Writing that retraditionalizes in this way, I suggest, is taking two distinct yet simultaneous approaches to the dominant influence of Achebe. It is at one and the same time displacing the conventional signified of the standard signifiers of tradition, as in twins curse; yet also, by adopting these signifiers none- theless, it continues to recognize and to build on their mythic and symbolic staying power. In other words, Okris abiku plot the story of Azaro, his mum and dad acknowledges Achebe in the breach rather than in the observance, yet at the same time is never unaware of how his legacy accrues meaning to the returning child-nation motif. 3 Azaro as embryonic nation is thrown upon the repeating cycles of fortune and misfortune that circum- scribe political reality, very much as an abiku/ogbanje like Ezinma risks life and death every time he or she embarks upon a new life cycle. The ogbanje reference, which was chiefly an authenticating device in Achebe, an ethnographic marker, along with the egwugwu, the proverbs and so on, becomes in Okri integrated into the cyclical narrative structure, and into its symbolic or spiritual-realist framework:

The spirit-child is an unwilling adventurer into chaos and sunlight, into the dreams of the living and the dead. Things that are not ready, not willing to be born or to become, things for which adequate preparations have not been made to sustain their momentous births, things that are not resolved, things bound up with failure and with fear of being, they all keep recurring, keep coming back, and in themselves partake of the spirit-childs condition. They keep coming and going till their time is right. History itself fully demonstrates how things of the world partake of the condition of the spirit child. (Okri 1991: 487)

Diana Evans and Chimamanda Adichie differ in several respects, not least in national location. Diana Evans, her mother Nigerian, her father English,

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describes herself as a British writer, whereas Adichie is Nigerian, resident in the United States. Yet their novelistic pathways coincide in their interest in incorporating figures that are recognizably from Achebe, or Achebe-esque, not so much into the symbolic framework of their narratives (as in Okri), but at the level of characterization and plot, that is, into their narrative structure. To adapt the above quotation from Okri, their narrative structure itself demonstrates how their work partakes of the condition of Achebe. At the heart of Evans26a are the identical twins Georgia and Bessi Hunter, growing up in their eponymously numbered house in Waifer Avenue, Neasden along with their homesick Nigerian mother with wide cicatrices on her cheeks; their depressed Derbyshire father; and their two other sisters, one older, one younger. As with twins in the pre-colonial Igbo world conveyed by Achebe, but here in a more positive sense, the two are uncannily linked: they occupy an extra dimension, the sum of two people; they are twoness in onenesswho see and think as one (Evans 2005: 5, 43). They also share a graphic primal memory with overtones from Soyinkas The Road (1965), on which the novel opens, of coming through road slaughter and nearly dying in order to be born. This not only presages the troubled destiny of at least one of the twins (Georgia) as she grows older, but also, for readers of Achebe (as Evans must be), reverberates against what we know well about the one-time fate of twins. The entire novel turns around the harmonious, closely attuned twoness of the twins, not unlike the twoness of the twins in Arundhati Roys The God of Small Things (1997), only closer. However, it becomes increasingly clear as time goes on that this near- impossible closeness is difficult, if not almost life-denying, to sustain, especially under the pressure of Georgias depression, the shadowsin her head. It is as if the novel is conceding something to the old Igbo taboo about twins that nature does not like to allow this kind of mirror-image replication. Nne-Nne their grandmother reminds them of this on their one visit to see her while in Nigeria:

Then Nne-Nne said, It is very special to be twins, you kno that? Your moda tell you about them the stories?No,said Ida, lightly reproaching Nne-Nne. You scare them!’ ‘Ah, but come, Ida, mek them tough now, not so!’ ‘What?said Bessi. Who?said Georgia. Yeah, what?added Kemy. Baba had stopped talking. His eyes flashed. He rubbed his hands together. They kill dem!(Evans 2005: 61)

Their grandfather Baba then goes on to enlarge on how twins are a curse, the offspring of witches and devils.

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4 The fate of Georgia in her pairing with her twin Bessi shows parallels, too, with the life and death of the perceptive Adah, the twin of Leah, in Barbara Kingsolvers The Poisonwood Bible (1998). In this novel, set in the Belgian Congo at the time of independence, the children of the American Price family adopt African, specifically Congolese, tendencies and features.

At the time, not much is made of the insertion of this mini-tale of a traditional taboo into the narrative. However, for the reader, the new knowledge of the twinsforbiddenness closely precedes if not presages the abuse that Georgia will suffer at the hands of the Lagos watchman Seldrick. This, the first experience that she keeps secret from Bessi, sets her off on a journey away from their land of twoness in oneness, increasingly locks her into her own inner darkness, and finally ends in her suicide. In a novel which powerfully evokes how the different dimensions of the characterssubjective realities continually interweave, separate and mesh, Georgia, though the first twin born and so traditionally stronger, finds it impossible to sustain a sense of separation between these different strands of perception and reality (Evans 2005: 124, 188). She comes to feel possessed by her shadows, or, as she describes it towards the end of her life, a devil has entered her and replaced her soul not unlike what Baba had earlier said happened with the stronger of a pair of twins. 4 More prominently than in the case of Diana Evans, Chimamanda Adichies work to date is stamped with numerous filiative gestures towards Achebe. There is the explicit reference to things falling apart in the opening sentence of her first novel, a bildungsroman with a dark twist in the tale, Purple Hibiscus (2004). There are the many untranslated Igbo words that pepper both of her novels to date, this and Half of a Yellow Sun, her Biafran War story. There is the unmistakably Achebe-like epistemological and textual about-turn at the end of Half of a Yellow Sun, when it becomes apparent that the novel-in-formation that Adichies narrative has been tracking, is the work not of Kainenes lover Richard, as the reader has been led to suspect, but the houseboy-soldier Ugwu. Ugwus dedication For Master, my good manrepeats closely, though with an anti-colonial rather than a colonizing twist, the DCs decision at the end of Things Fall Apart to entitle his book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. But what is particularly interesting about the undertow and overtones of Achebe in Adichie occurs where his influence does not so much reside in a gesture present on the surface of the text, but when, as with Evans, it is incorporated into the configurations of plot and character. As does Evans, but arguably even more fundamentally so, Adichie hinges the entire Half of a Yellow Sun narrative on the twoness or separateness of the Igbo twins Olanna and Kainene, which their competitive destinies force into a rift, that will not sustain mutual life. Kainene is the sceptical materialist entrepreneur with the English lover and the androgynous look; Olanna, more central to the plot, dynamically beautiful, an Africanist lecturer in sociology, feels that her sister has put distance between them since their teenagehood (Adichie 2006: 36 7). Relatives, friends and lovers all comment on the gulf that divides them, though are not aware of its complicated motivations.

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A major split, which is not fully revealed until the novels second half, occurs following Olannas one-off seduction of Richard, which Kainene hears about before too long. Olannas wish to take revenge on Odenigbo for his seduction by his mothers maid in part motivates this act, though it may

also represent a vain attempt on Olannas part to get closer to Kainene through her lover (Adichie 2006: 252). But whether it is a mistaken sisterly overture or not, the event predictably has negative consequences and leads to the long-term estrangement of the twins. The onus then lies on the wounded and insulted Kainene to rebuild the bridge between them, which she does when the civil war has started to go badly for Biafra (Adichie 2006: 343). At

a time of fratricide, she recognizes that familial and national solidarities

must outweigh personal differences, and chooses to reassert sisterliness. At the same time she is involved in a different kind of border-crossing, trading across enemy lines on behalf of a refugee centre. It is while on one of these trading missions that she disappears and is not heard of again, despite Olanna and othersattempts to locate her (Adichie 2006: 407, 413, 433). The novel ends without confirmation of her being alive or dead. So, regardless of her survival into adulthood, Kainene the twin has entered and been lost to the realm of ghosts, the Bad Bush or Forest populated with Deads that traditionally claims twins. Though Ugwu returns from his war horrors, and the other central characters survive, fratricidal war, which reduces all relationships to their bare bones, does not permit the twoness of the twins to last. One of the twins has, it seems, to be sacrificed to familial and national destiny, as is suggested by the resignation expressed in the following:

When first she saw her parents, her father called her Ola m, my gold, and she wished he wouldnt because she felt tarnished. I did not even see Kainene before she left. When I woke up, she was gone,she said to them. Anyi ga-achota ya, we will find her,her mother said. We will find her,her father repeated. Yes, we will find her,Olanna said too, and she felt as if they were all scratching desperate fingernails on a hard, scarred wall. (Adichie 2006: 431)

Lest this reading seem to overemphasize the twinship of Kainene or Olanna

(and twinship is, after all, not a dominant plot feature in Things Fall Apart),

it is worth imagining the alternative that Adichie might have used in their

characterization. Kainene and Olanna could, after all, have been made sisters only, not twins; close in age, yet not close in emotion. However, Adichie the narrator chose to make them twins. She chose to dwell on the specialness, the intense genetic charge that links the sisters, in spite of their many differences. And therefore, by extension, she chose from the start

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to allude to the encroaching fate that appears almost inevitably to befall them even though they live into adulthood as Achebes novel allows us to predict. Here it is suggestive to think again by contrast of the two-egg twins Rahel and Estha in Arundhati Roy, who survive despite their sorrows and separation, whereas, in Adichie and Evansnovels, being one of a twin, especially the more domineering, independent one, is in existential terms to be doomed.

Conclusions

To begin to close, attention now shifts from twinship back to the motif of the returning baby, and in particular the Africanizing device that the ogbanje story offers the memoir writer Alexandra Fuller, whose work is otherwise far removed from the cultural and ethnographic terrain occupied by Achebe. Yet Fuller writes with some sense of his and other Igbo writerssymbolic legacy in her attempt, or so it seems, to ground her own vision and identity in African soil specifically, in Zimbabwe. Fullers 2002 memoir Dont Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight recounts in evocative prose her childhood on a farm in eastern Rhodesia, and her familys struggle to cope with a series of blights, tragedies and incursions. These include, at a national level, warfare to defend the white settler countrys 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence, and, at a micro- cosmic level, the domestic yet equally devastating disasters that bring about the deaths of three of the familys five young children: Adrian, Olivia and Richard. The deaths of the children lie at the painful heart of Fullers memoir, yet, at the very start, she as it were resolves these sorrows into an overarching cyclical and cosmic story, which she causes to overlap with her own, through the medium of her anecdote about the Coming-Back Baby. She incorporates her family biography into a to her, generic African legend of the spirit-child, even though she at the same time subtly separates her own particular life-narrative from it:

Some Africans believe that if your baby dies you must bury it far away from your house, with proper magic and incantations and gifts for the gods, so that the baby does not come back, time after time, and plant itself inside your womb only to die a short time after birth. This is a story for people who need to find an acceptable way to lose a multitude of babies. Like us. Five born, three My soul has no home. I am neither African nor English nor am I of the sea. Meanwhile, Adrians restless African soul still roamed. Waiting. Waiting to come back and take another baby under the earth. (Fuller 2002: 35)

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Ogbanje has certainly allowed me, as the author of Nile Baby (2008), a novel about friendship, Africanness and journeying, yet set in England, to establish an explicitly Africanizing device through which to excavate and reclaim the still-residual African migrant histories that lie embedded in contemporary Britain. Self-consciously as this device is used in Nile Baby, I am bound equally self-reflexively to acknowledge here that my reading of Achebes influence in the form of the returning-baby motif has inevitably been mediated through, as well as mediating, my own creative adaptation of the motif in my novel. In Nile Baby, the ogbanje figure a preserved embryo in a bottle who seems under certain lights to come alive is identified as a returning baby by a Nigerian nurse, Katrina, who, herself feeling stranded and abandoned in England, identifies with the embryos plight. Twelve-year-old Arnie, the son of Katrinas boyfriend, who carries the specimen jar with him on a journey to find his father, also has reasons for identifying with the embryo, whom he calls Fish. Fish thus invites a range of possible readings. To Arnie and his misfit friend Alice, who has an absent African father, he comes to signify the long-embedded presence of Africa in England. To Katrina and also to Arnie, he suggests how certain kinds of possibility remain immanent, tantalizingly beckoning; and also how dominant pathways of cultural influence between Africa and Europe may be reversed. Moreover, like ogbanje figures elsewhere, Fish plays an important role as a social catalyst between the main characters. Like Okris Azaro, he occupies zones of transition and interchange, as here:

And then [Katrina] began to talk. A long stream of talk came flowing from her mouth with only now and then a pause for breath. It was the strangest thing. Where last night Id struggled to catch her meaning, now every word was plain. The only problem was that sometimes she called herself I and sometimes Katrina, as if she was standing outside of herself, so it wasnt till later that I understood clearly parts of what shed said. Now then Dannys boy Arnie,she said. You think why I help lift your heavy burden? I tell you why. Katrina born five, six, pickin in this life. She bring her five or six child into this life, but not bring one for her house. No pickin. No single one live. They come from Katrina perfect like this one here, five or six. Some early, some late, only one they take a knife to open my belly so the breeze rush inside. That one have a nice, round head, his body fine, too, but all-the-same he die. The other ones have long, smart heads like this Fish.She cupped his head, she rocked, the bracelet clicked. Fact is,she went on, Katrina know very well how new baby look. She has midwife certificate, she seen plenty. She seen poor, sick pickin born with brain hanging down their back like raffia. And heart outside body. And too- small arms like little wings. I think Fish born small like this and head frontwards,

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very ordinary, but then like my pickin he choose not to live. No, not at all. Maybe he got hole inside him somewhere, so his ghost leak out. Or maybe he take one look round and think no way, not this world, it too raw, not for me, just like each and every one of the pickin Katrina born.She cradled Fish up higher, between her chin and her shoulder, as if he was a violin. Off my babies go, and then come back, and again and again and again. Ogbanje child we Igbo call them in the muddy river delta from where I come. Ogbanje child always knock at the door of the same belly, the same mother, and yank her hair, want to try the thing one more time. Please, let me try another little bit of this life, they say. I want to put these arms around you, make you feel warm, give it a go one last time. And the mother say yes, course, come how can she not? and the child rush in, and lose the hope and hunger to live even while they rushing.(Boehmer 2008: 139 40)

What tentative conclusions might be drawn from the fact that Achebe appears to have energized figures referring to excessive and impaired generation cursed yet magical children, and cursed and mysteriously linked twins in work that has followed him? Apart from the specific ways in which these figures of anomaly operate in the different texts, something the writers discussed here suggest in common, I submit, is the importance and slipperiness of his influence itself influence marked with the sign of Achebe, which however they adapt, mould, warp and translate. Influence, as Said (1984) and Mitter (2007) among others observe, works through filiation as well as networks of affiliation, through direct and familial as well as less direct and mediated transfer. In Things Fall Apart filiation is noticeably frustrated: Nwoye is permanently estranged from his father Okonkwo and his tribe; the ogbanje child remains always under threat; twins are not permitted to live. In the work of Okri, Evans, and Adichie, the cursed or doomed child achieves some familial filiation as well as the connections of affiliation, such as with friends and compatriots. Anomalous generation produces miraculous metamorphosis as well as loss and this at the level of the narrative action and at the level of metanarrative. Transmission from one generation to another in these writers, though it takes place through the small-scale metaphorical vehicle of the child, the symbolic code of the twin or ogbanje, is made to be successful, generative, transformative though the source of transmission remains Achebe. Stamping their work with the signatures of Achebe, yet adapting those signatures even as they do so, these writers declare their complex allegiance to, and affiliation with, Achebe and his now-transnational Igbo tradition.

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