Beyond the Single Story of African Realism: Narrative Embedding in <i>Half of a Yellow Sun</i>
This article seeks to contribute to critical readings of realism’s memetic claims by tracing the ways in which framed narration, or writing-about-writing, serve to establish reliability in Chimamanda Adichie’s seminal novel Half of a Yellow Sun. I argue that conceptions of typicality are used almost interchangeably in scholarly discussions on realism and Africanness, and that this requires a narrative framework that untangles the myriad links between them. Inserting Adichie’s now-famous concept of the ‘single story’ into this debate,
I show how Africanness and realism are negotiated as two kinds of typicality that work, counterintuitively, to undercut stereotypes, and moreover, to allow realism to establish a kind of verisimilitude that is far from mimetically naïve. I start from a theoretical overview of terms such as realism, Africanness, typicality, referentiality, diegesis, and metalepsis, attempting to clarify the connections I draw between them. I then move briefly to a juxtaposition between the embedded books in Adichie’s novel and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as an oscillation between oral and written representations. Finally, the focal point of my investigation is the diegetic layering in Half of a Yellow Sun, where I read typicality in-between orality and writing, the public and the private, and specificity and typification.