Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has called for a balance between facts and humanity in the media. Adichie, who was the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Commonwealth Lecture made the case for what she called realist fiction.
“We live in a world where we so often quote figures of the number of the dead in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Congo until they become just that: figures,” said Adichie, “Each time I read these news articles, I find myself thinking – what do they dream about in Congo? How do they fall in love in Afghanistan? How do they resolve family quarrels in Iraq? What do they like to eat?
Of course we must know about the dead and the dying, and of course these figures and facts are essential, but they must, they should, co-exist with human stories. We should know how people die but we should also know how they live.”
Adichie argued that realist fiction is not merely the recording of the real, and that it seeks to infuse the real with meaning.
“As events unfold, we do not always know what they mean, “ said Adichie, “But in telling the story of what happened, meaning emerges and we are able to make connections with emotive significance. Realist fiction is, above all, the process of turning fact into truth.”
Watch Adichie’s speech in full below.