Excerpt of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(Page 2 of 4)
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"The houseboy, sah."
"Oh, yes, you have brought the houseboy. I kpotago ya."
Master's Igbo felt feathery in Ugwu's ears. It was Igbo colored by the
sliding sounds of English, the Igbo of one who spoke English often.
"He will work hard," his aunty said. "He is a very good boy. Just tell him what he should do. Thank, sah!"
grunted in response, watching Ugwu and his aunty with a faintly
distracted expression, as if their presence made it difficult for him
to remember something important. Ugwu's aunty patted Ugwu's shoulder,
whispered that he should do well, and turned to the door. After she
left, Master put his glasses back on and faced his book, relaxing
further into a slanting position, legs stretched out. Even when he
turned the pages he did so with his eyes on the book.
by the door, waiting. Sunlight streamed in through the windows, and
from time to time a gentle breeze lifted the curtains. The room was
silent except for the rustle of Master's page-turning. Ugwu stood for a
while before he began to edge closer and closer to the bookshelf, as
though to hide in it, and then, after a while, he sank down to the
floor, cradling his raffia bag between his knees. He looked up at the
ceiling, so high up, so piercingly white. He closed his eyes and tried
to reimagine this spacious room with the alien furniture, but he
couldn't. He opened his eyes, overcome by a new wonder, and looked
around to make sure it was all real. To think that he would sit on
these sofas, polish this slippery-smooth floor, wash these gauzy
"Kedu afa gi? What's your name?" Master asked, startling him.
Ugwu stood up.
your name?" Master asked again and sat up straight. He filled the
armchair, his thick hair that stood high on his head, his muscled arms,
his broad shoulders; Ugwu had imagined an older man, somebody frail,
and now he felt a sudden fear that he might not please this master who
looked so youthfully capable, who looked as if he needed nothing.
"Ugwu. And you've come from Obukpa?"
"From Opi, sah."
"You could be anything from twelve to thirty." Master narrowed his eyes. "Probably thirteen." He said thirteen in English.
Master turned back to his book. Ugwu stood there. Master flipped past some pages and looked up. "Ngwa, go to the kitchen; there should be something you can eat in the fridge."
entered the kitchen cautiously, placing one foot slowly after the
other. When he saw the white thing, almost as tall as he was, he knew
it was the fridge. His aunty had told him about it. A cold barn, she
had said, that kept food from going bad. He opened it and gasped as the
cool air rushed into his face. Oranges, bread, beer, soft drinks: many
things in packets and cans were arranged on different levels and, and
on the topmost, a roasted shimmering chicken, whole but for a leg. Ugwu
reached out and touched the chicken. The fridge breathed heavily in his
ears. He touched the chicken again and licked his finger before he
yanked the other leg off, eating it until he had only the cracked,
sucked pieces of bones left in his hand. Next, he broke off some bread,
a chunk that he would have been excited to share with his siblings if a
relative had visited and brought it as a gift. He ate quickly, before
Master could come in and change his mind. He had finished eating and
was standing by the sink, trying to remember what his aunty had told
him about opening it to have water gush out like a spring, when Master
walked in. He had put on a print shirt and a pair of trousers. His
toes, which peeked through leather slippers, seemed feminine, perhaps
because they were so clean; they belonged to feet that always wore
"What is it?" Master asked.
"Sah?" Ugwu gestured to the sink.
came over and turned the metal tap. "You should look around the house
and put your bag in the first room on the corridor. I'm going for a
walk, to clear my head, i nugo?"
Excerpted from Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Copyright © 2006 by Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House,
Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.