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Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 25

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"I will never forgive myself if I lose you, Kainene."

Her face was expressionless. "I took your manuscript from the study this morning and I burned it," she said.

Richard felt a soar in his chest of emotions he could not name. "The Basket of Hands," the collection of pages that he was finally confident could become a book, was gone. He could never duplicate the unbridled energy that had come with the words. But it did not matter. What mattered was that by burning his manuscript she had shown him that she would not end the relationship; she would not bother to cause him pain if she was not going to stay. Perhaps he was not a true writer after all. He had read somewhere that, for true writers, nothing was more important than their art, not even love.

6. The Book: The World Was Silent When We Died

He writes about the world that remained silent while Biafrans died. He argues that Britain inspired this silence. The arms and advice that Britain gave Nigeria shaped other countries. In the United States, Biafra was "under Britain 's sphere of interest." In Canada, the prime minister quipped, "Where is Biafra?" The Soviet Union sent technicians and planes to Nigeria, thrilled at the chance to influence Africa without offending America or Britain. And from their white-supremacist positions, South Africa and Rhodesia gloated at further proof that black-run governments were doomed to failure.

Communist China denounced the Anglo-American-Soviet imperialism but did little else to support Biafra. The French sold Biafra some arms but did not give the recognition that Biafra most needed. And many Black African countries feared that an independent Biafra would trigger other secessions and so supported Nigeria.

PART FOUR. The Late Sixties


Olanna jumped each time she heard the thunder. She imagined another air raid, bombs rolling out of a plane and exploding in the compound before she and Odenigbo and Baby and Ugwu could reach the bunker down the street. Sometimes she imagined the bunker itself collapsing, squashing them all into mud. Odenigbo and some of the neighborhood men had built it in a week; after they dug the pit, as wide as a hall, and after they roofed it with clay-layered palm trunks, he told her, "We're safe now, nkem. We're safe." But the first time he showed her how to climb down the jagged steps, Olanna saw a snake coiled in a corner. Its black skin glistened with silver markings and tiny crickets hopped about and, in the silence of the damp underground that made her think of a grave, she screamed.

Odenigbo bashed the snake with a stick and told her he would make sure the zinc sheet at the entrance of the bunker was more secure. His calmness bewildered her. The tranquil tone he used to confront their new world, their changed circumstances, bewildered her. When the Nigerians changed their currency and Radio Biafra hurriedly announced a new currency too, Olanna stood in the bank line for four hours, dodging flogging men and pushing women, until she exchanged their Nigerian money for the prettier Biafran pounds. Later, during breakfast, she held up the medium-size envelope of notes and said, "All the cash we have."

Odenigbo looked amused. "We're both earning money, nkem."

"This is the second month the directorate has delayed your salary," she said, and put the tea bag on his saucer in her own cup. "And you can't call what they pay me at Akwakuma earning money."

"We'll get our life back soon, in a free Biafra," he said, his usual words lined with his usual forceful reassurance, and sipped his tea.

Olanna placed her cup against her cheek, to warm it, to delay the first sip of weak tea made from a reused tea bag. When he stood up and kissed her goodbye, she wondered why he was not frightened by how little they had. Perhaps it was because he did not go to the market himself. He did not notice how a cup of salt cost a shilling more each week and how chickens were chopped into bits that were still too expensive and how nobody sold rice in large bags anymore because nobody could buy them. That night, she was silent as his thrusts became faster. It was the first time she felt detached from him; while he was murmuring in her ear, she was mourning her money in the bank in Lagos.

"Nkem? Are you all right?" he asked, raising himself to look at her.


He sucked her lower lip before he rolled off and fell asleep. She had never known his snoring to be so rasping. He was tired. The long walk to the Manpower Directorate, the sheer mindlessness of compiling names and addresses day after day, exhausted him, she knew, yet he came home each day with lit-up eyes. He had joined the Agitator Corps; after work, they went into the interior to educate the people. She often imagined him standing in the middle of a gathering of rapt villagers, talking in that sonorous voice about the great nation that Biafra would be. His eyes saw the future. And so she did not tell him that she grieved for the past, different things on different days, her tablecloths with the silver embroidery, her car, Baby's strawberry cream biscuits. She did not tell him that sometimes when she watched Baby running around with the neighborhood children, so helpless and happy, she wanted to gather Baby in her arms and apologize. Not that Baby would understand.

Ever since Mrs. Muokelu, who taught Elementary One at Akwakuma, had told her about the children forced into a truck by soldiers and returned at night with their palms chafed and bleeding from grinding cassava, she had asked Ugwu never to let Baby out of his sight. But she did not really believe the soldiers would have much use for a child as young as Baby. She worried, instead, about air raids. She had a recurring dream: She forgot about Baby and ran to the bunker and after the bombs had fallen, she tripped on the burnt body of a child with its features so blackened that she could not be certain it was Baby. The dream haunted her. She made Baby practice running to the bunker. She asked Ugwu to practice picking Baby up and running. She taught Baby how to take cover if there was no time for the bunker-to lie flat on her belly, hands wrapped around her head.

Still, she worried that she had not done enough and that the dream portended some negligence of hers that would harm Baby. When, toward the end of the rainy season, Baby began to cough in drawn-out whistles, Olanna felt relief. Something had happened to Baby. If the heavens were fair, wartime misfortunes would be mutually exclusive; since Baby was sick, she could not be harmed in an air raid. A cough was something Olanna could exercise control over, an air raid was not.

She took Baby to Albatross Hospital. Ugwu removed the palm fronds piled on top of Odenigbo's car, but each time she turned the key, the engine wheezed and died out. Finally Ugwu pushed it before it started. She drove slowly and stepped on the brake when Baby started to cough. At the checkpoint, where a huge tree trunk lay across the road, she told the civil defenders that her child was very sick and they said sorry and did not search the car or her handbag. The dim hospital corridor smelled of urine and penicillin. Women were sitting with babies on their laps, standing with babies on their hips, and their chatter mixed with crying. Olanna remembered Dr. Nwala from the wedding. She had barely noticed him until after the bombing, when he said, "The mud will stain your dress," and helped her up, Okeoma's shirt still wrapped around her.

She told the nurses that she was an old colleague of his.

"It's terribly urgent," she said, and kept her English accent crisp and her head held high. A nurse showed her into his office promptly. One of the women sitting in the corridor cursed. "TiifiakwalWe have been waiting since dawn! Is it because we don't talk through our nose like white people?"

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