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Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 14

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"Jollof rice." He raised the cover of the dish. "I used fresh tomatoes from the garden."

"Has Baby eaten?"

"Yes, mah. She is playing outside with Dr. Okeke's children."

Olanna picked up the fork and held it.

"I will make fruit salad for you tomorrow, mah. That pawpaw tree behind has a ripe fruit. I will give it one more day, and then I will pluck it fast before those birds come for it. I will use orange and milk."


Ugwu still stood there, and she knew he would not leave until she had started to eat. She raised the fork to her mouth slowly, chewing with her eyes closed. It was as good as whatever Ugwu cooked, she was sure, but, except for the chalky pills, she had been unable to taste anything in so long. Finally, she drank some water and asked Ugwu to take the tray away

On her bedside table, Odenigbo had placed a long sheet of paper with WE, UNIVERSITY STAFF, DEMAND SECESSION AS A MEANS OF SECURITY typewritten at the top and a patchwork of varied signatures at the bottom.

"I was waiting for you to be strong enough to sign it before I deliver it to the statehouse in Enugu," he had said.

After Ugwu left the room, she picked up a pen and signed the letter and then checked through the text for any errors. There were none. But Odenigbo didn't need to deliver the letter because the secession was announced that evening. He sat on the bed with the radio placed on the bedside cabinet. The reception had little static, as if the radio waves understood the importance of the speech. Ojukwu's voice was unmistakable; it was vibrantly male, charismatic, smooth:

Fellow countrymen and women, you the people of Eastern Nigeria: Conscious of the supreme authority of Almighty God over all mankind; of your duty over posterity; aware that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any government based outside Eastern Nigeria; determined to dissolve allpolitical and other ties between you and the former Republic of Nigeria; having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf and in your name that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent Republic, now therefore I do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria, together with her continental shelf and territorial waters, shall henceforth be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic Of Biafra.

"This is our beginning," Odenigbo said. That false softness had left his voice and he sounded normal again, bracing and sonorous. He took his glasses off and grabbed Baby's little hands and began to dance around in circles with her. Olanna laughed and then felt as if she were following a script, as if Odenigbo's excitement would abide nothing but more excitement. She sat up and shivered. She had wanted the secession to happen, but now it seemed too big to conceive. Odenigbo and Baby were moving round and round, Odenigbo singing off-key, a song he had made up-"This is our beginning, oh, yes, our beginning, oh, yes…"-while Baby laughed in blissful incomprehension. Olanna watched them, her mind frozen in the present, on the cashew-juice stain on the front of Baby's dress.

The rally was held in Freedom Square, in the center of the campus, lecturers and students shouting and singing, an endless sheet of heads and placards held high.

We shall not, we shall never move,

Just like a tree that's planted by the water,

We shall not be moved,

Ojukwu is behind us, we shall never move.

God is behind us, we shall never move.

They swayed as they sang, and Olanna imagined that the mango and gmelina trees swayed too, in agreement, in one fluid arc. The sun felt like a flame brought too close, and yet it was drizzling and the lukewarm raindrops mixed with her sweat. Her arm brushed Odenigbo's as she raised her placard: it read we cannot die like dogs. Baby was sitting on Odenigbo's shoulders, waving her stuffed doll, and the sun was bright through the thin drizzle, and Olanna was filled with a delicious exuberance. Ugwu was beside her. His placard read god bless biafra. They were Biafrans. She was Biafran. Behind her, a man was talking about the market, how the traders were dancing to Congo music and giving away the best of their mangoes and groundnuts. A woman said she would go there right after the rally to see what she could get for free, and Olanna turned to them and laughed.

A student leader spoke into the microphone and the singing stopped. Some young men were carrying a coffin with Nigeria written on it in white chalk; they raised it up, mock solemnity on their faces. Then they placed it down and pulled their shirts off and started to dig a shallow hole in the ground. When they lowered the coffin into the hole, a cheer rose in the crowd and spread, ripplelike, until it was one cheer, until Olanna felt that everybody there had become one. Somebody shouted, "Odenigbo!" And it spread among the students. "Odenigbo! Address us!"

Odenigbo climbed up to the podium waving his Biafran flag: swaths of red, black, and green and, at the center, a luminous half of a yellow sun.

" Biafra is born! We will lead Black Africa! We will live in security! Nobody will ever again attack us! Never again!"

Odenigbo raised his arm as he spoke, and Olanna thought how awkwardly twisted Aunty Ifeka's arm had looked, as she lay on the ground, how her blood had pooled so thick that it looked like glue, not red but close to black. Perhaps Aunty Ifeka could see this rally now, and all the people here, or perhaps not, if death was a silent opaqueness. Olanna shook her head, to shake away the thoughts, and took Baby from Ugwu's neck and hugged her close.

After the rally, she and Odenigbo drove to the staff club. Students had gathered on the hockey field nearby, burning paper effigies of Gowon around a glowing bonfire; the smoke curled into the night air and mixed with their laughter and chatter. Olanna watched them and realized with a sweet surge that they all felt what she felt, what Odenigbo felt, as though it were liquid steel instead of blood that flowed through their veins, as though they could stand barefoot over red-hot embers.


Richard did not think it would be so easy to find Nnaemeka's family, but when he arrived at Obosi and stopped at the Anglican church to ask, the catechist told him they lived just down the road, in the unpainted house flanked by palm trees. Nnaemeka's father was small and albino, copper-colored, his eyes a grayish-hazel that brightened as soon as Richard spoke Igbo. He was so different from the large, dark customs officer at the airport that for a moment Richard wondered if perhaps he was in the wrong house and this was not Nnaemeka's father. But the older man blessed the kola nut in a voice so similar to Nnaemeka's that it took Richard back to the airport lounge that hot afternoon and to Nnaemeka's irritating chatter before the door burst open and the soldiers ran in.

"He who brings the kola nut brings life. You and yours will live, and I and mine will live. Let the eagle perch and let the dove perch and, if either decrees that the other not perch, it will not be well for him. May God bless this kola in Jesus' name."

"Amen," Richard said. He could see other resemblances now. The man's gestures as he broke the kola nut apart into five lobes were eerily like Nnaemeka's, as was the set of his mouth, with the lower lip jutting out. Richard waited until they had chewed the kola nut, until Nnaemeka's mother appeared, dressed in black, before he said, "I saw your son at the airport in Kano, the day it happened. We talked for a while. He spoke about you and his family." Richard paused and wondered whether they would prefer to hear that their son had remained stoic in the face of death or if they would want to hear that he fought it, that he charged toward the gun. "He told me that his grandmother from Umunnachi was a respected herbal doctor known far and wide for her cure of malaria, and that it was because of her that he first wanted to be a doctor."

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