CHRIS ABANI QUOTES

Nigerian author (1966- )

I have not spoken in three years: not since I left boot camp. It has been three years of a senseless war, and though the reasons for it are clear, and though we will continue to fight until we are ordered to stop--and probably for a while after that--none of us can remember the hate that led us here. We are simply fighting to survive the war. It is a strange place to be at fifteen, bereft of hope and very nearly of your humanity. But that is where I am nonetheless.

CHRIS ABANI, Song for Night

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Tags: war


Before you speak, my friend, remember, a spiritual man contain his anger. Angry words are like slap in de face.

CHRIS ABANI, Graceland

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Tags: anger


Here's the thing: You rescue us every day in small, quiet ways, so why not in this way? Let us into your mystery, tell us how you would like to be loved, show us how to see you, really see you.

CHRIS ABANI, "What Men Aren't Telling Us", O Magazine, Jul. 2008

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What I've come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion.

CHRIS ABANI, "Chris Abani muses on humanity", dotSUB, Nov. 13, 2008

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Tags: compassion


I think it's an aggregation of all of the small acts that are really transformative. I think a group of small acts transform the individual. And maybe when the individual transforms, collectively we transform.

CHRIS ABANI, interview, UTNE Reader, Jun. 2010

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There was a positive side to not trying at something: you could always pretend that your life would have been different if you had.

CHRIS ABANI, Graceland

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The wind is calling in a voice I remember.

CHRIS ABANI, Song for Night

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As with much of the world's problems, they become public--or much more of interest--the moment they begin to impact the West.

CHRIS ABANI, "In Conversation with author Chris Abani", Truthdig, Apr. 18, 2006

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Story is powerful. Story is fluid and it belongs to nobody. And it should come as no surprise that my first novel at 16 was about Neo-Nazis taking over Nigeria to institute the Fourth Reich. It makes perfect sense. And they were to blow up strategic targets and take over the country, and they were foiled by a Nigerian James Bond called Coyote Williams, and a Jewish Nazi hunter. And it happened over four continents. And when the book came out, I was heralded as Africa's answer to Frederick Forsyth, which is a dubious honor at best. But also, the book was launched in time for me to be accused of constructing the blueprint for a foiled coup attempt. So at 18, I was bonded off to prison in Nigeria.

CHRIS ABANI, "Chris Abani on the stories of Africa", TED conference

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Circuses are about entertainment and juggling and animals and all that shit. Sideshows are about freaks, about people and the limits of acceptability. We push those limits. If a circus is an escape ... a sideshow is a confrontation.

CHRIS ABANI, The Secret History of Las Vegas

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Misreading is really the chance for complication and opportunity. The first Igbo Bible was translated from English in about the 1800s by Bishop Crowther, who was a Yoruba. And it's important to know Igbo is a tonal language, and so they'll say the word "igwe" and "igwe": same spelling, one means "sky" or "heaven," and one means "bicycle" or "iron." So "God is in heaven surrounded by His angels" was translated as -- [Igbo]. And for some reason, in Cameroon, when they tried to translate the Bible into Cameroonian patois, they chose the Igbo version. And I'm not going to give you the patois translation; I'm going to make it standard English. Basically, it ends up as "God is on a bicycle with his angels." This is good, because language complicates things.

CHRIS ABANI, "Chris Abani on the stories of Africa", TED conference

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I didn't leave Africa, I left Nigeria, and for political reasons. But ... I've never, never left Africa, and I certainly never left what it means to be Ibo. That is something you carry with you.

CHRIS ABANI, "In Conversation with author Chris Abani", Truthdig, Apr. 18, 2006

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What we know about who we are comes from stories. It's the agents of our imagination who really shape who we are.

CHRIS ABANI, Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference, Arusha, Tanzania, Oct. 2007

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Tags: imagination


The privilege of being a writer is that you have this opportunity to slow down and to consider things.

CHRIS ABANI, interview, UTNE Reader, Jun. 2010

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Tags: writing


I read everywhere. It's like a bodily function. I don't need quiet. I write and read with the TV on. I follow the TV show while I read. TV doesn't require a lot of brainpower.

CHRIS ABANI, The Boston Globe, Mar. 22, 2014

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Tags: reading


Elvis, stop dat! You know it is taboo to whistle at night. You will attract a spirit.

CHRIS ABANI, Graceland

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Tags: ghosts


Nigerians are everywhere. There's an old joke, particularly about the Ibos, that when you finally land on Mars, you're going to find a Nigerian there who has a shop that is selling Coca-Cola--who took a speculative trip 20 years ago and has been waiting for everyone else to arrive.

CHRIS ABANI, "In Conversation with author Chris Abani", Truthdig, Apr. 18, 2006

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If you want to know about Africa, read our literature -- and not just "Things Fall Apart," because that would be like saying, "I've read 'Gone with the Wind' and so I know everything about America."

CHRIS ABANI, "Chris Abani on the stories of Africa", TED conference

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My mom taught me to read when I was two or three. When I was five I read and wrote well enough to do my nine-year older brother's homework in exchange for chocolate or cigarettes. By the time I was 10, I was reading Orwell, Tolstoy's War and Peace, and the Koran. I was reading comic books too.

CHRIS ABANI, The Boston Globe, Mar. 22, 2014

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Sometimes we say we want an end to hate or racism or sexism. But we all participate in keeping these structures alive. If everyone decided to relinquish the past what would happen to people who feel that there hasn't been proper atonement made to them? And what happens to the person who feels that the constant atonement is their identity?

CHRIS ABANI, interview, UTNE Reader, Jun. 2010

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