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BW Businessworld

Expression Of Emotions

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The stories in chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's new collection are like the unnameable "thing" from the title story The Thing Around Your Neck (HarperCollins). They take hold of you slowly but surely. Somber and quiet-worded, these 12 tales are about things that people do, things they are moved by and about the difficulty of explaining why people are moved into doing what they do. The stark narrative structure and an absence of verbal pyrotechnics and frenetic plot twists combined with the writer's absolute control of tone make it impossible to skip any of them.

In these stories, you will see a young girl scheming to maim her elder brother, because she realises that "…some people take up too much space by simply being". You will see a woman run screaming from the American embassy, because she won't talk about her son's death in exchange for a passport. You will read about a historian rebelling against the past she has been straight-jacketed into, and go searching for her own past and that of her nation's.

Adichie's stories are about love, death, hate, shame and other emotions that people feel when they relate to each other and to each other's lives, but they are also about people relating to their histories, their pasts and how the latter affects their passage through life. And as you read, you will find yourself thinking that this is indeed the way it is; the narrative voice is extraordinarily sure-footed.

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(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 20-07-2009)