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


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


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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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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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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Your anatomy is a mystery that nobody bothers explaining to us. Even when we think we have mastered one woman's body, every body is different.

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

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Tags: women


Time was the only variable in every equation of power and oppression--how long before the pot boiled over.

CHRIS ABANI, The Secret History of Las Vegas

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Tags: time


The thing about courage is this: Courage requires us to take an action. And every time we take an action in this world there is a reaction--basic laws of physics. So, often times we are afraid; we just are not sure that the action we take will create the reaction we need. One has to accept that we'll never know. In other words, if someone is hungry and you offer them food, you might be offending them. But if you don't offer them food, they could die of hunger. I would rather offer them food and while they're eating, let them be angry at me. I've seen many bad things come out of people who were trying to do good, but I would rather six bad things happen out of people trying to do good than six good things not happen because people were afraid that six bad things might happen.

CHRIS ABANI, interview, UTNE Reader, Jun. 2010

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Tags: courage


Eden is not the thing we seek.
It is the thing we cannot find.

CHRIS ABANI, Sanctificum

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Tags: paradise


But how long before this desperate wickedness overruns the qualms of good people? Before the desire for the smell of cooking meat, the softness of flesh, breaks us all?

CHRIS ABANI, Hands Washing Water

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Tags: desire


Every day is a careful balance fought between the despondency that threatens to swamp me and the incredible joy of living.

CHRIS ABANI, Kalakuta Republic

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Tags: life


In the old country my mother planted flowers
in the face of my father's disdain.
In every garden,
in every house,
no matter how long
we lived there.
I think it was the war,
the Blitz in England, that took all the flowers.
I think it was for the love she couldn't show him.
I think it was for me.
To show me that only the unspeakable remains.

CHRIS ABANI, Sanctificum

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Tags: flowers


All that day and into the night, my mother knelt before her altar, before the icon of the Virgin, before the candles burning, and rolled her rosary between her hands, beating her chest and calling for mercy, for some intercession. As I watched her, I realized that she could see death, and I too, and it wasn't some ugly skeleton with a scythe--death is a beautiful woman, eyes soft from morning dew, lips pulled back in the saddest smile, praying at an altar for her husband's life.

CHRIS ABANI, Song for Night

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Tags: death


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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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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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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