Writings of the general word's body

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sefi Atta Interview

Now, here's the kind of writer interview you don't get to read everyday. In today's Guardian, Sefi Atta is shooting from the hip. She takes pot shots at a certain critic who reviewed her second novel, the identity of whom is not difficult to guess:

"I’m only aware of one critic who reviewed Swallow negatively, and that was in Next. Apparently, he is a bit of a joke and his reviews barely qualify as blogs. An American friend who lives in Lagos asked why he was so spiteful. I said that’s what bloggers do to get attention. They go tabloid on you. I just wondered what I’d done to Next to deserve such a debut.
Critics don’t need to denigrate writers to review our works. They only expose their own flaws when they do. They can point out flaws in our works without being rude. I mean, I’ve heard of dissatisfied readers hurling books across rooms, but really, does reading a book you don’t enjoy constitute a personal affront that justifies retaliation against the writer? It’s absurd."

The critic in question wrote a glowing review of Ms Atta's first book, 'Everything Good Will Come'... The novelist also attacks a former publisher (no prizes for guessing who they are either). Here she is talking about inconsistent publishing standards:

"After Everything Good..., I made a decision to publish my next two books, Swallow and Lawless in Nigeria first, and was very disappointed with the copy editing and production quality. One book was actually published with the wrong cover. It took months to correct them, as a result of staff carelessness. I then discovered my contract had been breached when an American reader e-mailed me to say he’d bought a copy of my book and paid in dollars. My contract clearly stated my books were only to be sold in Nigeria. I got an apology from my publisher, but no admission of guilt, and it resulted in a strained relationship that I ended in March 2009... Even if what happened was due to carelessness, Nigerian writing is now international, so we can’t afford to be lax. I’m not revealing this to embarrass anyone, nor am I suggesting that writers make public every problem they have in the course of business, but we’re often silent about violations of our rights, which only makes us part of the problem. I don’t think exposing the offending party will redress it. Nigerians have a high tolerance for bad behaviour and might even turn on the injured party if they protest too much. That said, I will speak out and take legal action when necessary. In fact, I’d be quite willing to revisit past infringements if I so much as hear any of the parties involved makes a rejoinder that rubs me up the wrong way. They have been warned."

The author also reveals that we can expect to see plays written by her on the Lagos stage, soon.
Read the full interview, 'I write for people not critics - Atta', here.


Kulikaali said...

Sefi Atta writes for people, not critics. Makes sense. Critics obviously are cats, not people.

Temitayo said...

lol@Kulikali's comment

Writers need to come to terms with the fact that critics (people) would think what they want (and write it!) about their works...something one cannot run away from...and many times these opinions are not what we want to read. Write...and hope people enjoy it...if not, well write another one...and hope some people enjoy it...if not write again. The thing is not everyone would enjoy all that you write every time. So?

I enjoyed reading Swallow: the remarkable characters and vivid portrayal of Lagos (Sefi is a Lagos Queen!) though I wonder why Atta's endings are usually hurried...as if in a haste to end the story...not always neat. Heck! Life many times does not have neat endings...isn't that what literature reflects?

Not a Critic said...

@ Kulikaali, Touche. LOL.

The arrogance displayed by this woman in her interview is unbelievable...especially for a writer of such mediocre offerings.

KT said...

@Not a Critic

Stop hating on the woman. What is mediocre to you might be a gem to others. What's with all this venom anyway?

Hans Meier said...

I'm not impressed with Atta's lashing out. I believe i know the negative review she's fuming about and i found that review pointless. Still i'd prefer to "actively ignore" stupid reviews and such to openly fight back.