Chimamanda Adichie denies plagiarism claim over ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Best-selling author, Chimamanda Adichie, has refuted a claim that she plagiarised her Orange prize-winning book, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ from the author of ‘Sade,’ Anne Giwa-Amu.

Ms Giwa-Amu had, in a YouTube video on Sunday, called out on Ms Adichie for ‘copying’ her novel ‘Sade’ to produce ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ saying that “it’s a basic principle of natural justice that no one should profit from stealing from another persons.”

Ms Adichie, in a statement by her literary agency—the Wylie Agency on Monday, said the claim made by Ms Giwa-Amu was false.

“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her publishers had never heard of Giwa-Amu’s novel until she brought her delusional claim,” the statement highlighted.

Published in 2007, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ dives into the uncertainty of human life and relationships in the time of war through the story of two sisters—Olanna and Kainene and their love lives during the Nigerian civil war.

‘Sade’ was published in 1996. It was set in post-independent Nigeria and during the civil war. Like Half of a Yellow Sun, it tells of a story a young lady, Sade, and her love triangle with twin brothers.

The claim

Ms Giwa-Amu alleged that Ms Adichie reworded and expanded her novel ‘Sade’ while copying the setting, structure, plot, language, themes, characterisation, content, form, subject matter, supporting arguments and scenes in the novel.

She said she began writing her novel in 1992 and wasn’t published until 1996 because UK publishers claimed that there was no market for African books at the time.

In 1998, she said she sent a copy of her manuscript to Nigeria’s Heinemann Educational Books Ltd where late Chinua Achebe was part of the board of directors.

“Chinua Achebe, a writer linked to the Biafra propaganda effort, was the main decision-maker on the Board of Directors at Heinemann.

“I received a letter that Chinua Achebe read and accepted my novel, ‘Sade’, for publication for senior secondary schools in Nigeria under the sub-title ‘Sade United We Stand.’

Ms Giwa-Amu said Ms Adichie must have learnt of her book from Mr Achebe since they had a father-daughter relationship.

She added that upon acquiring the copyright of her book in 1996, a copy was sent to the British library where, according to Ms Giwa-Amu, Ms Adichie said she did the research for her book.

When asked how she got to retell the Nigerian-Biafra war story in her book in an interview, Ms Adichie admitted she had no experience about the civil war since she was born a few years after the war had ended.

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“I wrote this novel because I wanted to write about love and war, because I grew up in the shadow of Biafra,” she said.

She said she “read some books, looked at photos and talked to other people.”

Meanwhile, Ms Giwa-Amu said her copyright licence with the Heinemann books elapsed in 2019 and she wouldn’t stand back to see another rip the fruit of her “efforts.”

“Chimamanda Adichie should not be allowed to reap where she did not sow simply because she was chosen by Achebe to take over from him.

“It is time for Chimamanda to tell the truth and put to rest the ‘ghost of the father of the African novel’ that haunts her work,” she said.

Court case

In 2016, Ms Giwa-Amu brought a legal claim against Ms Adichie and her publishers for alleged copyright infringement.

Ms Giwa-Amu claimed that every incident from her literary work, Sade, was copied and expanded upon to create a literary forgery.

According to the Wylie agency, a professional independent reader was appointed to read both novels.

“The reader concluded that there was absolutely no basis for Giwa-Amu’s claim and advised that the claim should not be pursued. Giwa-Amu nevertheless continued with the claim,” the statement said.

A Central London County Court order, in February, 2019, struck out Ms Giwa-Amu’s claim and mandated her to pay £14,250 damages to Ms Adichie and her publishers.

“Till date, Giwa-Amu has not paid the money,” the statement said.

“Her present allegations are false, libellous and constitute a harassment to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Further legal actions are being taken,” the statement said.


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