Literature is in peril because of social censure: Chimamanda

Sharing her views on the importance of literature and freedom of speech, award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently said that she believes literature is in peril due to our social censure. Adichie said this during the BBC Reith Lectures on November 30, 2022.

Criticising publishers for their use of sensitivity readers, Adichie said, “literature is increasingly viewed through ideological rather than artistic lenses.” She further said that due to this, in today’s times Salman Rushdie’s hugely controversial book ‘The Satanic Verses’ wouldn’t even have been written or published because of censorship.

Writers “who want to write novels about sensitive subjects” are often “held back by the spectre of social censure” and “publishers are wary of committing secular blasphemy,” Adichie added.

Talking about the importance of literature, especially in today’s times, she also said, “Nothing demonstrates this better than the recent phenomenon of ‘sensitivity readers’ in the world of publishing, people whose job it is to cleanse unpublished manuscripts of potentially offensive words… This in my mind negates the very idea of literature. We cannot tell stories that are only light when life itself is light and darkness. Literature is about how we are great and flawed… Literature deeply matters and I believe literature is in peril because of social censure.”

Commenting on book banning, which is seen on a rise in America, the African-American author further said, “What today is considered benign could very well become offensive tomorrow, because the suppression of speech is not so much about the speech itself, as it is the person who censors.”

Adichie is known for her books like ‘Americanah’, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, ‘Purple Hibiscus’, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ among others.

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